Author: Bayla Sheva Brenner

Bringing God into the Classroom

Why did God create me? Why do we have to keep Shabbat? Do my tefillot really matter? If God is so loving, why is there so much suffering? These are questions often left unanswered in many Jewish high schools. Until recently. Thanks to Kivun, a two-year-long Jewish philosophy curriculum designed for tenth and eleventh grades, […]

Remembering Sarah Taub

She took her baby home with one question for God. “You gave me this child; what is my mission? Let me see the purpose while I’m alive.”

Pulling the Plug: Life Without Internet

In 120 years, when every one of my minutes flashes before me, I can’t bear the thought of watching myself mindlessly staring at a computer screen, reel after reel after reel.

Managing Mishpacha

Shoshana Friedman insists she didn’t choose her field. It chose her. A computer science and math major in college, she never intended on becoming managing editor of Mishpacha magazine, a popular weekly in the Orthodox world. But the signs were there nonetheless. Friedman realized early on that she had a knack for perfecting the written […]

Rechy Frankfurter: Ami’s Woman at the Helm

When Rechy Frankfurter and her husband Yitzchok launched Ami Magazine in 2010, they weren’t the only game in town. A variety of competing frum newsprint and glossy publications were already lining the supermarket racks. Undeterred, they went on to claim Ami’s prominent place among them. As the former editor of two major Chareidi publications, Rechy […]

Unbroken Faith: American Jewish Families Who Defied the Odds

Many assume Torah Judaism came to these shores in the aftermath of the Holocaust. This is not only historically false, but it overlooks the extraordinary mesirut nefesh and devotion to Torah exhibited by hundreds of men and women who stubbornly and courageously fought to lay the foundation of Torah Judaism in America.

The Hartman Family, New York

When I was growing up, small farms still existed in Boro Park. I remember there were goats and chickens. It was a time when the majority of Jewish immigrants assimilated. Observant Judaism was perceived as being old fashioned, a relic from the Old Country.

The Fertig Family, New Brunswick, New Jersey

It’s a fallacy to say that Orthodox Judaism in America existed only from the 1940s onward. My grandchildren mark six generations since the arrival of the Fertig family in the US.

The Bruder Family, New York

Many of the books on the history of American Orthodoxy include the names Bruder, Weberman, Fensterheim and Jacobs. These families helped build the spiritual foundation that enabled American Orthodoxy to flourish decades later.

The Cohn Family, Baltimore, Maryland

My great-grandfather, Henry P. (Tzvi Pinchas) Cohn, was a Kohen. He left Germany because they had strict laws against Jews there, one of which imposed limitations on how many Jews in a family could get married. (This is why one of Yekke minhagim is that talleisim are worn by both single and married men; this way, German officials weren’t able to tell who was married and who wasn’t.)

The New Entreprenuer

Why the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and booming in the Orthodox community

Doing Time with the Rabbi: A Day in the Life of a Prison Chaplain

The sky hung low as I drove upstate to the Eastern Correctional Facility in Napanoch, New York, this past May. I had never been to a prison before. Yet, here I was, traveling to the edge of the Catskills to visit a maximum-security prison. I came to observe Rabbi Moshe Frank at work as a […]

Deaf-blind Get “In Touch” with Halachah

Our Way’s “Illuminating” New Sefer   We all, to some degree, communicate through touch. For the Jewish deaf-blind, it’s the only way. They literally “speak” and “listen” into each other’s hands. This raises serious halachic questions. What if the signers are opposite genders; are they obligated to keep the laws of negiah? Can spouses use […]

The Changing American Rabbinate

Today’s rabbi needs to be a CFO, fundraiser, program director and mental health professional rolled into one A strong cup of coffee in hand, he stares at the computer screen, putting the final touches on his Shabbat derashah. He then reviews the latest building campaign spreadsheet, adds the name of an addiction specialist to his […]

Up Close with Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich

Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich’s tenacious struggle to keep Torah in Communist Russia is documented in his book Unbroken Spirit: A Heroic Story of Faith, Courage and Survival (Jerusalem, 2012). But in a recent interview with OU

A Faithful Son Makes It Home

In 1970, a group of Jewish activists, desperate to escape Soviet Russia, devised a plan. They would fill up a small plane to a local city under the pretense of attending a wedding, and then hijack the plane to Sweden. Once there, they planned to announce their intention to immigrate to Israel. The plane never […]

Torah High: The Hebrew School Hit

Why would thousands of secular Jewish teenagers gladly give up their afterschool chill time for two-and-a-half hours of Hebrew school? Try easy high school credits, unlimited kosher pizza and a chance to win a Mazda3. Call it incentive; call it bait—Torah High is working. The brainchild of Rabbi Glenn Black, CEO of NCSY Canada, Torah […]

A Lifeline in the Storm: OU Provides Relief to Communities Devastated by Sandy

Within hours of Sandy’s devastation, the OU sprung into action. On its web site, the OU launched the OU Hurricane Relief Fund, giving the greater community an opportunity to reach out and assist those struggling to come to terms with their losses and rebuild their lives. The response was overwhelming. “Funds were streaming in from […]

Torah Judaism Is Alive in Germany: Q & A With Rabbi Josh Spinner

Which country boasts some of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the world, outside of Israel? Surprisingly, it’s Germany. Who would have predicted that some 120,000 Jews would settle in Germany, with more than 20,000 residing in its capital? Even more astounding, Torah Judaism is on the rise in Germany, with a thriving Orthodox community of […]

Feeling is Believing: Shabbat Shines for Jewish Deafblind

With canes in their hands and anticipation on their faces, a number of men and women made their way to the Pearlstone Retreat Center’s main lobby. They had traveled from around the country to the Maryland retreat to experience Shabbat with people just like themselves—Jews who could neither see the light of the Shabbat candles […]

The Daf Heard Around the World

It’s 4:00 am and Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of OU Kosher and executive rabbinic coordinator, rises to begin another day. Aside from managing the day-to-day operations of OU Kosher, Rabbi Elefant has a forty-five minute class to prepare—he is the voice behind the popular OU Daf Yomi (, accessed by 1,800 learners, possibly the largest […]

I’m on Facebook Too! Disabilities and Social Media

Yachad member Zev Diamond, who is in his twenties, marched proudly in the Israel Day Parade this past summer. But he didn’t have to wait for the next Yachad event to share his excitement; he had Facebook. Those with developmental and other disabilities are eagerly logging onto social media sites, welcoming this easy ticket out […]

Meeting of Jewish Hearts: Women Lead the Way

Four years ago, feeling helpless over the Sderot bombings and the intensifying danger facing Jews worldwide, Tziporah Harris knew that Jewish unity would turn it all around. And it had to start with her. Harris, a forty-year-old Aish HaTorah lecturer who lives in Passaic, New Jersey, began an impromptu speaking tour, urging women from around […]

Take My Pulpit – Please!

For the past six years, on the Sunday evening between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, OU-member synagogue rabbis have been swapping pulpits in the name of Jewish unity. “Unity starts from the top,” says Rabbi Yaakov Luban, executive rabbinic coordinator of the Orthodox Union and rav of Ohr Torah in Edison, New Jersey, who swapped […]

Yachad: Living Up to Its Name

To learn the secret to Jewish unity, go to the experts in unconditional love—Yachad. Twice a year, families from across the spectrum of Jewish life, from secular to Satmar, come together for the Yachad Family Shabbaton. They come together for one purpose: to share their experiences of raising children with special needs. “It’s one of […]