Author: Bayla Sheva Brenner

In The Limelight

Despite the expectations, visibility and sacrifice, these children of rabbis or high-profile rebbetzins saw close-up what it means to take a community under one’s wing, and to dedicate one’s life to uplifting others.

Navigating Life Transitions

Walking through the unknown without a compass is bewildering, and at times, devastating. Yet there are those who have managed to rise above their ordeals.

A Stinging Silence: Living with Family Estrangement

It’s been two years since Shani has had any contact with her younger sister. She noticed the distancing shortly after her mother passed away. First the unanswered phone calls. Then the two-word text responses and the bare bones, business tone e-mails. Then, nothing.

The Consummate American Gadol

Like any boy raised on Brooklyn Dodgers turf, he loved to play ball and ping-pong and roller skate. But that didn’t stop him from becoming a diehard Yankee fan. Or an American gadol.​

The Bienenfeld Family, New York

I’m named after Jacob, my grandfather, who was named after Yaakov Bienenfeld, the patriarch of this family and my great-great-grandfather who came to the US in the 1840s. When he first came to New York, he settled in Harlem, where a Jewish community existed at the time. Many of the big churches in Harlem today used to be shuls. Additionally, most of the big shuls in Manhattan today were built in the 1800s, such as the West Side Institutional Synagogue, Congregation Ohab Zedek, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and Congregation Shearith Israel (the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue).

Scheinerman Family, Washington, DC; New York

When my parents, Peretz and Annie Scheinerman, lived in Washington, DC [in the early part of the twentieth century], you could just walk onto the White House grounds. There were these beautiful green rolling hills where my brothers and their friends used to play ball.

The Siegel Family, Baltimore, Maryland

My wife’s paternal grandparents, Chaim and Sora Feiga Siegel, moved to Baltimore in 1900. The couple named their second American-born son after Chaim’s father, Yechezkel. But the midwife refused to put Yechezkel on his birth certificate. She said she would not burden an American boy with such a foreign name. One of his sisters solved the dilemma. A street in East Baltimore that she crossed on the way home from school was called Chester Street. It sounded a little like “Chezkel,” so that is how he got the name.

Coming Out of Denial: Drug Addiction in the Orthodox Community

“We live in a society that is awash in drug use. Drugs are everywhere—even in Torah institutions . . . . Children from the finest families may use drugs,” Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, noted psychiatrist and specialist in addictions, wrote in these pages back in 2008.

Shomer Shabbat Boy Scouting: Why Orthodox Kids Become Boy Scouts

Think it’s too late for your tech-napped child? Take heart. Hope comes in unexpected forms–sometimes in a khaki uniform.

Orthodox kids across the country are putting aside their Wiis and iPhones to pitch tents, stoke campfires and learn first-aid, CPR and lifelong leadership skills. They’re shomer Shabbat Boy Scouts, and proud of it.

A Passion for Rare Sefarim: Q & A With Rabbi Eliezer Katzman

Expert collector Rabbi Eliezer Katzman, a consultant and appraiser of Judaica and Hebrew books for Kestenbaum & Company, has also worked for Sotheby’s, Christie’s and other auction houses. Rabbi Katzman, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, has appraised the collections in the Rare Book Room of the Mendel Gottesman Library of Hebraica/Judaica at Yeshiva University, […]

Jewish Genealogy: The Journey to Oneself

My mother’s death brought to life a disturbing realization. Although she will always be the precious woman I call “Mommy,” I never really knew her. During shivah, I spoke about how she survived the Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz and a death march, broken and alone. But I lacked a sense of who my mother was as […]

A Life Unexpected: Frum and Childless

“. . . and the childless one should not say, ‘Look, I am a shriveled tree.’ For this is what Hashem said to the barren ones who observe My Sabbaths and choose what I desire and hold tightly onto My covenant: In My house and within My walls I will give to them a place […]

NCSY Turns Sixty

Gone are the days of saddle shoes, jukeboxes, love beads and disco. Ultimately, even Facebook will suffer the same fate. Teenagers grow up; rages fade. With one exception. NCSY. Six decades strong, NCSY continues to make traditional Judaism inspiring and relevant to teens, no matter what era. Back in the 1950s, when many American synagogues […]

Marror in December?

OU Kosher Begins Preparations for Passover Well in Advance of the Holiday While the rest of us are playing dreidel and eating latkes, the OU Kosher staff is knee-deep in charoses and matzah balls. Alleviating the inevitable pre-Pesach panic that descends upon kosher consumers takes planning. So OU Kosher thinks marror in December. “We begin […]

Conversing with Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein

From Johannesburg Shall Go Forth Torah  South Africa’s first native chief rabbi, who is successfully strengthening Yiddishkeit on the home front, has gone global with a worldwide learning program. Despite its relatively small size—an estimated population of 70,000—the South African Jewish community is thriving religiously. While the community is mostly traditional, it boasts a burgeoning […]

From the Ground Up: Growing Torah in the Garden State

A trio of resourceful rabbis discovered the winning recipe to creating a frum community from scratch. They identified regions where Jews were plentiful but Judaism was scarce, and employed the motto “Give them Torah and they will come.” It worked. South Jersey’s spiritual transformation began with three modern-day pioneers who set out to teach Torah […]

Cherry Hill: In-Town Community with an Out-of-Town Feel

Who says you can’t live the out-of-town life without moving from the New York- metropolitan area? What if you could actually afford your dream home and your children’s tuition and live in an established frum community that is a mere hour-and-a-half from Manhattan? Apparently, you can. “I don’t know how much longer we are going […]

Detroit: Motown’s Orthodox Revival

You would never know Detroit went bankrupt by the looks of two thriving frum communities close to the city. Oak Park and Southfield keep drawing scores of frum families to the area—and it seems like there’s no letting up. Growth from Within Shuls and communities must grow organically; in other words, the local Orthodox population […]

Rebuilding Oceanside In the Aftermath of Sandy

  Hurricane Sandy left the Oceanside, New York community, on the southern shore of Long Island, with many of its homes devastated and the Young Israel of Oceanside in shambles. The other shuls in Oceanside, Congregation Shaar Hashamayim, Darchei Noam and the Chabad of Oceanside, also suffered extensive damages. This past Rosh Hashanah, the 200-member […]

Ready, Willing—and ABLE: Yachad Joins the Workforce

You wouldn’t normally think the lunch-hour crunch at a kosher eatery or a stop at your local CVS is inspiring. Think again. Note the young men and women with developmental disabilities proudly clearing the tables or stocking shelves; they’ve got jobs to do—a privilege they had only dreamed about, until recently. Thanks to the Yachad […]

OU Calendar Diehards and Proud of It

In the age of the iPhone, some people prefer to keep track of their appointments the old-fashioned way With the world wedded to every newfangled handheld device, one would think users of the OU Pocket Diary are rapidly becoming extinct. But just ask these hardcopy holdouts and you’ll get a very different story. “The first […]

The Proba

View from the Candidate Along with semichah, rabbinic hopefuls need stamina. The road to the rabbinate entails interviews—lots of them. If he passes those, he’s on his way to “the proba” (Shabbat tryout), where the finalists among the candidates vying to become a shul’s new rabbi take their turns acting as rabbi of the community […]

Gadol Makes Time for OU Kosher

                    Rav Elyashiv’s rulings continue to affect millions of OU Kosher consumers around the world. Got a kashrut question? You call the OU. But where do the OU Kosher experts take their questions? Whenever the OU rabbinic coordinators in the national office or mashgichim at various […]

OU Helps Obtain Homeland Security Grants for Jewish Institutions

Thanks, in part, to the aggressive efforts of the OU’s Institute for Public Affairs (IPA), the US Department of Homeland Security awarded $19 million in security grants to nonprofit institutions this year. Of the 271 that received the grant, 254 are Jewish. “Every synagogue is a potential target,” says Rabbi Judah Dardik of Beth Jacob […]

New Jersey’s “Go-To” Couple

Jerry and Anne Gontownik of Englewood, New Jersey, easily exemplify the motto, “you are what you do.” For close to three decades and running, this tireless duo has not only taken their nonstop concern about Jews and the Jewish future to heart, they’ve taken it to Washington, to Jerusalem, as well as to Senators, Congressman, […]

Is There a Rabbi on the Base? The Life of a Jewish Army Chaplain

In 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War, Chaplain (Colonel) Sanford Dresin, having just received semichah from Yeshivas Chasam Sofer in Brooklyn, New York, became an Army chaplain. After serving two years on a United States Army base in Fort Meade, Maryland, he knew that if he remained on active duty, the next stop […]

Seeing Miracles Every Day: Meet the Landys

The Landys may very well be the most conspicuous family in Rochester, New York. Anita Landy drives around town in a big white bus, custom made to carry her lively crew of five, in addition to three wheelchairs, a ventilator and a service dog named Magic. Nurses traipse in and out of their home 24/7, […]