Bais Yaakov D’Rav Meir of Brooklyn and their one-of-a-kind project — Daven 4 Me
Write a letter. She’ll write hers. Watch the transformation.
Brrr, it’s cold out there. What with icy winds, slushy snow, and low temps, we’re rushing to get home. But wait — what do we observe in the middle of a frosty day with overcast skies? Yes! It’s a slight green bud among the bare tree branches. It’s hard to spot, but there it is, announcing signs of life.
This probably triggers your brain cells that Tu B’Shevat is around the corner. Visions of red cherries, crunchy apples, and juicy peaches among other luscious fruit flood your taste buds. Yum!
Hold it, don’t lose sight of this special day. The Fifteenth of Shevat is an opportunity to daven for good, strong, and sturdy trees that will overflow with those tasty fruits. In fact, this day is known to be the time for men to daven for the prized esrog they will buy for Succos.
The power of tefillah is incredible. Join me as we meet some of the amazing high schoolers of Bais Yaakov D’Rav Meir of Brooklyn, who have taken full advantage of this special mitzvah of tefillah through their one-of-a-kind project — Daven 4 Me.
What’s Daven 4 Me, you ask?
This inspiring project was started around five years ago by high school girls. These special teenagers had a yearning and desire to raise the level of their own davening as well as their fellow classmates’, and they discussed many ideas on how to give their davening a boost.
When they heard the same sentiments voiced by friends from Gateshead, England, they took it as an aha moment. Now was the opportune time to act! Initially, they introduced a simple proposal between one school and another. I wonder if they realized how their “simple plan” would mushroom into something so huge.
Why don’t we daven for each other? Girls from one school can daven for girls at another school, thereby helping their own davening, as well as bringing yeshuos! As it says in the Gemara, “Whoever begs for mercy for his friend, and he needs the same salvation, he is answered first.” It’s a totally different davening when you feel you carry responsibility for another person. It’s bound to raise one’s level of kavanah.
The plan commenced! Girls from the Brooklyn school were paired up with girls in Gateshead. Each girl wrote an anonymous letter, stating what yeshuah she needs. The letter could include words of chizuk, or any other encouraging wishes. Then each girl swapped her letter with a partner. Her partner would daven for her and her specific requests over a 40-day period, including vacation and nonschool days.
This project has received rabbinical haskamah. In fact, the rav involved suggested that each partner should be known by an identity number or simply by her first name, so that no contact information need be shared.
In just a short time, this wonderful project surpassed everybody’s expectations.
Reaching New Heights
“My davening reached new heights,” said one participant. “Shemoneh Esreh, which used to be a rushed affair, began to take about ten minutes!”
Students who before might have felt davening to be something they had to do, now approached it with fresh spiritual energy, and davened with deep concentration. The new motto among the girls was “How can you not?” Meaning, you’re not just davening to be yotzei; rather, you have an additional goal, you’re davening to help another girl receive her yeshuah. This feeling of responsibility was definitely reflected in their davening.
And the results were fast in coming.
A couple had a child after 18 years of marriage.
Older singles found their bashert.
A baby with a difficult and scary prognosis, including not being able to walk, is now a healthy, walking child.
And these are just a few of the numerous yeshuos that followed the start of Daven 4 Me.
As each piece of good news came in, the high schoolers rejoiced, and their understanding that true tefillah to Hashem is priceless was reinforced and strengthened. No doubt it motivated them to do yet another 40-day cycle.
The various yeshuos requests mirrored today’s common challenges, like shidduchim for older singles, praying for a childless couple married for double digit years, or speedy recoveries for individuals hospital bound with a terrifying diagnosis.
The appeals covered a broad spectrum of other requests, too. For example, one girl asked her partner to daven that her father find a job (he did). Another asked that her family should be able to move into a house, as their apartment was very cramped (they did). A totally different request was for a girl to do well on her tests. (I hope she did!) This evokes warm emotions from the DFM (Daven for Me) reps as it reflects the growth of the girls. One can see how they felt that Hashem is involved with every part of their lives.
After some time, the organizers felt that more schools would benefit from participating in this inspiring project. It took on a life of its own, and in just a short time, another 12 schools got involved!
The growth spurt continued over the years, and today the numbers are mind-boggling. Over 50 schools worldwide are taking part in this program! From Texas to Georgia in the US; from Lod to Dimona in Eretz Yisrael; Italy, Germany, Panama, even Chile; these are just a few of the many countries involved. Of course, if there are many countries in the program, there are also many languages used — think Spanish, French, Portuguese, even Russian, and school reps must be matched up with others who speak their language.
Here's How It Works
The procedure to get your school started is fairly simple:
Principal permission — get consent from your principal and submit a contact number. Sometimes the girls have a hard time getting permission. This often happens when the principal is not quite sure what the program is all about. But don’t worry, the coordinators, Peri and Gali, step in and are in touch with the school staff or speak to the rep. They patiently explain the nitty-gritty details, and send material to show the principal.
Your school receives a partnering school from around the globe with around the same number of girls.
The girls watch a six-minute introductory video. The video, which is sent out to the reps to show to the girls in their school as a means of introducing the DFM program, is carefully crafted. Its exciting presentation creates in the students a desire to get involved. It begins with a talk by Mrs. Herzka, the principal of D’Rav Meir, who explains the power of DFM. Then several girls speak about how this program affected their davening in a positive way. Finally, an organizer explains how the program works. Viewers then spend a few minutes writing their bakashah on a special customized card, including a Tehillim name or initials. No contact information is shared.
The schools swap letters.
For the next 40 days each girl is mispallel for her partner. She can have her partner in mind during davening or at any other time.
At Your Service
Each school has several DFM representatives who have assorted responsibilities. As mentioned before, they provide the school with an introductory video and theme song to help launch the program successfully. They also keep track of any good news. Both schools call each other’s DFM representatives if there are any yeshuos announcements. Now that’s one fun job — sharing good news!
The representatives make sure the program runs smoothly in other ways, too. They are the unofficial cheerleaders, coaching their members along. For example, they give out reminders during the 40 days to keep the davening going strong. They stress the halfway mark — we did 20 days already; we have another 20 to go! Fun use of stickers, posters, or even a newsletter are used to give a boost to the girls. Reps are free to implement any idea they might have to help their group grow in their ruchniyus.
If students have any questions along the way, their DFM representatives are more than happy to help them out. The DFM reps are in contact with, and network with, each other all the time, checking in weekly for any new materials that can boost the girls’ davening throughout the 40 days.
The Power Pair
Today Gali and Peri are the powerhouses behind this project. They use their talents and creativity to keep it running smoothly, but always welcome feedback and suggestions.
The two have put modern technology to good use. They created a Google form that has made the program much more organized, because the information from the form goes directly into the system, enabling them to easily create partners. The form also made it simpler for the schools to sign up, stay in touch, and exchange information when necessary — for example, the number of girls in their school, and whether or not they’ve obtained the principal’s permission. They still provide printable forms, though, if a school would rather not go the electronic route.
The organizers make it sound like the program runs so easily and smoothly, that I couldn’t resist asking; did they ever have any glitches? With slight giggles, they recollect. “We once communicated with another school via email. We thought we were corresponding with a fellow student, but we flipped out when we realized that it was the principal!”
There are some real challenges, though. Take the language barrier. What do you do if you can’t speak Portuguese? “To overcome this problem, we have reps in a few countries who help us successfully communicate with other schools in their country. This is all done via email.”
And don’t forget about the time difference that exists between many countries! Gali and Peri are often up until late at night calling people in different time zones. They try to utilize the days when they’re dismissed early from school to try to get through to principals from other schools who are still in the middle of their school day.
Small hurdles side, Gali looks at the bright side and reflects on how lucky she is. She realizes that though there may be challenges, soon, im yirtzeh Hashem, more and more girls will benefit from this program, and hopefully many yeshuos will come about. In general, she feels it’s such a special way to spend her time and channel her talents to help Hashem’s children, and she’s aware that this is what Hashem wants from her.
The only major costs involved are shipping costs to send the letters to the partners. When I asked the obvious question, namely, why use snail mail when you can use email, Gali and Peri answered, “There’s nothing like getting your partner’s letter in the mail, which you can open and actually hold in your hand.” True enough.
The girls infuse a lot of positive energy into these letters. Heartfelt messages of encouragement and gratitude are intermingled with appreciation for their partners’ efforts. One can feel that it’s much more than a bakashah.
I asked some of the program’s representatives what they would do if they had extra funds. One said she would print customized stickers, which she could attach to the various forms. Another said she would love a more comprehensive video about the project to be produced as a DVD that would be sent in a package with other cool promo items to potential schools.
Gali and Peri dream of being able to advertise more extensively, thereby drawing in even more schools. They also would love to design a pretty bracelet, and gift it to their members.
Okay, back to the program. Your 40 days of beseeching for your partner are over. What happens now?
Yup, despite the miles of separation between the schools, a full-blown siyum takes place by phone conference to commemorate those awe-inspiring days of tefillah.
It starts off with two perakim of Tehillim. This is followed by a four-minute DFM audio. Then, it’s time for shout-outs. That ranges from sharing mazel tovs, updates, thank-yous, and whatever else you want to share. A rav then gives his brachah to these amazing girls. One or two girls share an encouraging story. The grand finale is the singing of the well-known DFM song.
After that, I’m sure the girls are raring to go to start the process again with a new partner!
All in all, I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I am officially inspired by DFM. We’re all aware that each day’s davening has the potential to be on a higher level than the previous day’s, despite our saying the same tefillos and nusach every day. These awesome teens have made this a reality, creating a major transformation in the world of tefillah. Ultra-inspiring!
The feedback that the organizers have received has been incredible, mainly how refreshing it is to watch teens develop a deeper relationship with Hashem through tefillah. Undoubtedly, there must be loads of grateful individuals who are thrilled to have seen their yeshuah.
Finally, take note — this project is run solely by teenagers! You read correctly; these high schoolers are the masterminds behind this mammoth project. Okay, all you teens out there, take this message to heart! You, too, can be leaders, changers, and movers, and bring ruchniyus to the forefront. We’re waiting to see your projects!
Now, won’t you daven for me?
Interested in bringing this program to your school? Daven 4 Me can be contacted through Teen Pages.
Rikki, 11th Grade:
When I daven, I always add my own words to each brachah. I felt that this really increased my concentration, but since we have started this amazing program, I discovered something even better to improve my concentration. Now I’m not just adding in my own needs, but I am also adding in someone else’s personal needs. I have acquired a new responsibility — one of the girls from across the ocean is relying on my tefillos. Now I can truly say that I concentrate on each brachah, because I know that if I do not concentrate, someone else will lose out.
Dina, 11th Grade:
Davening is when we talk to our Father, our King!! It is our chance to ask for anything we need or want. Hashem loves us, His children and wants to give us anything we need. But we can’t use davening only for our convenience. We can’t expect Hashem to give us everything right away! We have to mean what we say throughout our davening. It’s our chance to tell Hashem that we know that He runs the world and is the only One Who has the ability to give us anything. Davening is one of the greatest gifts we have.
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 894)
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