In Show of Sensitivity to Yesomim and Others, Baltimore’s Vaad HaRabbanim Changes Avos Ubonim to “Kol Hane’arim”

By BJLife/Isaac Draiman


The Vaad HaRabbanim of Baltimore has decided to change the name of the popular learning program in all Baltimore shuls known as Avos Ubanum to כל הנערים . The new name will allow all boys in the community to experience the excitement of learning, prizes, raffles and refreshments.

While the former name did connote the beautiful tradition of Mesorah, it left out a certain segment of the community.  What happens to the boy who R”L does not have a father, or who has a father who is not involved in his life?  Several years ago, for example, a young mother moved to Baltimore with her four children, ages 4-9, whom she was raising on her own.  At one point, the mother had to go out of town and placed her children with some friends.

While the mother was away, her nine-year-old son returned from school to his host home.  The woman watching the children asked to see any papers he had.  She noticed that the boy went to his folder, removed one particular paper, tore it into four pieces and proceeded to throw the pieces in the trash.  Curious, she waited until the boy wasn’t looking and retrieved the pieces: They were a flyer for Avos Ubanim.

Fifteen years later, that boy has become a successful young man living abroad.  When he heard about the Rabbanim’s decision to change the name, he became very quiet and then, quite emotional.  “I remember this pain like it was yesterday.  On behalf of all the kids going through life like I had, thank you for sparing them.”

Kol HaNearim is a name that conveys sensitivity and a welcome for all to the world of Torah learning with an adult.  The Vaad HaRabbanim has shown us the way to make sure each and every boy feels part of his Tzibur.



  1. Boruch Hashem, finally some sensitivity and sechel. 15 years ago when starting to take my 2 boys to Avos uBonim it bothered me terribly that there might be young boys who would be very hurt because they didn’t have a father to take them. Every week, week in and week out the gabbaI would announce in shul “boys should come motzoei shabbos with their fathers to Avos uBonim”…. and I would think that perhaps it could be called something different and not make any boy feel excluded. Why should little boys feelings be hurt unecessarily.

  2. I live in Far Rockaway. Horav Yaakov Bender, shlita, has for many years called the learning program DOR L’DOR for that exact reason.

  3. For years Yeshiva Darchei Torah under the visionary leadership of Rabbi Bender has called it “Dor l’dor” in deference to such children.

  4. “Curious, she waited until the boy wasn’t looking and retrieved the pieces: They were a flyer for Avos Ubanim.” … I bursted out in tears when I read that. Good call to change the name…

  5. Oh please! Pathetic ridiculous meaningless. Much more meaningful to clarify that any teacher of Torah is considered an “Av.”

    Fact is we are being influenced by the goyish trend of false non-meaningful “sensitivity”

    • Excuse me! maybe bh you have never encountered children that need the sensitivity but i have. Having lost my brother a couple of years ago leaving behind 5 boys i tell you “avos habonim” have been extremely difficult. Yes their grandfather has stepped in & taken some boys to shul to learn but there is lots of pain. Im glad they are changing the name. I hope all communities will follow.

    • “Fact is we are being influenced by the goyish trend of false non-meaningful “sensitivity””
      your point is well taken, but does NOT apply here!! the torah dictates that we be especially sensitive to such children!!
      however your point does apply to therapists who are adapting the leftist “feeling” ideology rather than facts & morals! there is no coincidence in the fact that nowadays [be’ikvisa demishicha] western culture has been called self-absorbed, self-centered etc. & – the result of this – the fact that therapists often validate their clients FEELINGS ignoring the torah view that such feelings are rooted in bad middos & self-centered etc. This terrible shift & yerida in the culture, mind set, attitudes & in psychological therapies has been pointed out even by non frum jews [eg. d. prager ] & conservative right wing goyim.

  6. Planya – please note that Rabbi Bender lost his father as a teenager, so he has first hand experience. Plus, he’s not exactly the ‘goyishe trendy’ type!

    • I stand by my words. I think a name change is meaningless. It follows today’s trend if solving problems by labeling it something else. I assume the organizers of these programs already allow learning with another man instead of the father. Those whom unfortunately can’t arrange to learn with anyone will not have been helped in any way by merely changing the name.
      BTW I lost a parent (r”l) as a young boy

  7. I’m not trying to be insensitive here, but this seems to be going too far. Avos Ubonim refers to anyone who teaches Torah to the boy. I used to learn with my grandfather, and I wasn’t hurt over the fact that it was called Avos Ubonim. I couldn’t care less what it was called. I had a friend who his father was a baal tshuvah, and wasn’t very proficient in the gemara we were learning. So his father hired a yungerman to learn with him. The name of the program didn’t bother him at all. I’m sorry if I’m being portrayed as mean or uncaring, but I just don’t think of it as such a big deal. Especially when we live in a world of “social justice warriors” who prance around making everyone’s lives miserable, so people shouldn’t be offended. We shouldn’t be conforming to their way of life. This is rediculous!

    • your not trying to be insensitive, but that is exactly how most insensitive comments are delivered. Sensitivity by its very nature is trying to understand the OTHER person’s feelings. Bringing anecdotes about how you feel is not at all relevant. This is all gain (for those in pain) and not pain (for anyone else). I think we can trust that the gedoley torah of the Vaad Harabonim aren’t “social justice warriors”.

  8. I think that it is a wonderful thing! The best person to confirm that indeed this is wonderful is the young man, who did not have a father growing up, and he reacted that it is a wonderful thing; that the pain of not having a father with whom to go to Avos U’Banim was so great. For the rest of us, we can only use our emotional intelligence and empathy (a foundational Torah value upon which we are raised…) to conclude that indeed this is a wonderful thing.

    I am curious as to how the Vaad changed the program so that the boys don’t feel badly that others are sitting and learning with their fathers. With whom are these boys learning?

    In our community there are wonderful individuals who reach out and seat children without fathers/mothers next to them in shul. When the boys get a kibbud, they proudly help them with to put on a tallis. Truth is that we can’t completely “fix” things when tragedy strikes, but we sure can step up and make a difference.

  9. Funny how this is newsworthy when many shuls have changed the name for this reason a long time ago. If anything, the question is what took the Vaad so long to make the change!

  10. I ran the uvos ubonim program for many years in a large chasidesher shul in boro park. Any child who did not have a parent was paired with many willing volunteers. We even had Lebedige Yesomim children who their father didnt care to learn with them that we set up an adult to learn with them.

  11. When my bechor was participating with me in the weekly Avos UBanim program at the Yeshiva of South Shore, I knew of a young widow whose son was entering into the age where he could participate in the program. I discussed it with my son and we made it our business to have this young boy join us to learn each week for several years. I found it to be an incredibly important lesson for my son to learn and I know it made a difference in this child’s life (and his mother’s).

    It is not the name that makes a difference, it’s what you make of it. You can call the program anything you want, but we need to make that extra step of inclusion, for it to really be inclusive.

    • Years ago I taught at a preschool that had “dads day” once a year for all the fathers to come and visit. I felt uncomfortable with it the moment I heard it but the director refused to change the name until the father of one of my students died unexpectedly. That year only dads day was cancelled. Here’s the interesting part, most of th people who dropped off their kids to school were the dads! Learning should be genderless. When I was frum I learned a ton and I’m not a man. Now to the comment about goyish trend of false non-meaningful “sensitivity”- it is because of attitudes like yours (and many more reasons) that I could no longer be part of the orthodox community.

  12. To those who claim that the name change is meaningless:
    How do you know the feelings of an orphan? Even if, God forbid, you also experienced such a loss as a child, does that mean every person is the same as you? The Torah commands us to be extra caring for orphans and widows. If the name change helps spare even one child from some pain, you are fulfilling a mitzvah d’Oraysa! Isn’t that worth it? And to those who are against it, why risk causing pain to those who are already suffering?

  13. I love living in a community where rabbanim look at individual needs of children and do something about it… to all those who say why news worthy … not important to do … trendy??? I feel bad for YOUR children that you don’t have it in you to want to be extra sensiative to those in need… news worthy??? To spread the word to others to do the same it’s wonderful other have done this… spread the word!!!

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