Chairman's Message

Chairman’s Message – Summer 2011

In recent months, I have grown accustomed to using the GPS in my car. Traveling to distant places, I still find it remarkable that every time I make a wrong turn, a friendly virtual voice redirects me, ensuring that I get to where I need to go.

Klal Yisrael also has a GPS system, one that has been in existence for more than 3,500 years. It’s called the Torah, and as Rabbi Noach Weinberg, z”tl, of Aish HaTorah used to say, Torah is our “instructions for living.” But all too often young people don’t view the Torah that way. They don’t see it as a roadmap for life, but sadly, as a laundry list of “do’s and don’ts.”

No, this issue is not dedicated to the topic of “at-risk youth.” Unfortunately, the very term “at-risk youth” has become a cliché, eliciting little more than a yawn and a turn of the page. That is not to say that the topic of wayward youth, which remains a very real issue in our community, should not be dealt with; it certainly should. However, in our cover story, “Getting Their Attention,” we focus on the need to inspire ordinary yeshivah kids. In other words—the need to make our day school and yeshivah students not just knowledgeable about Judaism but passionate and excited about it as well.

In this issue, our wonderfully talented senior writer, Bayla Sheva Brenner interviewed NCSY regional directors across the country, asking difficult but essential questions: How can we raise children to love Judaism? How do we make certain that our children do not grow up to live religiously lukewarm lives but that their Judaism remains vibrant and alive, and that it informs their every decision?

These questions are critically important at a time when one finds frum teens (not those on the fringe who experiment with drugs or alcohol) who have little interest in going to shul on Shabbos. They are essential at a time when a significant number of teens attending Modern Orthodox schools (not those on the fringe who experiment with drugs or alcohol) keep what is known as “half Shabbos,” observing Shabbos like everyone else with the exception of text messaging.

Torah has not changed in the 3,500 years since the Jewish people first received it. However, as Rabbi Effie Goldberg, regional director of West Coast NCSY, states in his essay, the way we transmit Torah must change from generation to generation. In the pages ahead, our talented cadre of seasoned educators and outreach professionals offer various perspectives on how to teach Torah in a way that speaks to this generation and how to make certain that our children navigate the highways and byways of life with the GPS that has guided Jews for millennia.

In this issue, we also revisit the topic of mesorah and probe the delicate balance between tradition and innovation. Rabbi Steven Weil, executive vice president of the OU, summarizes a historic and influential lecture that the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, delivered on the topic of mesorah in 1975. Reading it, one cannot help but note how the halachic challenges we face today are not that much different than they were decades ago. In an accompanying piece, Rabbi Michael Rosensweig, a rosh yeshivah at Yeshiva University, expounds upon the methodology and sensibility of mesorah.

Additionally, the issue features a special section exploring the challenges faced by religious Jews working in the upper echelons of government. The section features an exclusive excerpt from Senator Joseph Lieberman’s newest book to be released in August, The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath, as well as a candid and entertaining interview with Yehuda Avner, former ambassador and advisor to Israeli prime ministers.

Looking back on the early years of OU Kosher, the OU’s kosher division, we also pay tribute to Rabbi Chaim Goldzweig, our longest-standing mashgiach, who recently marked his fiftieth anniversary with the OU. Known to those in the kosher food industry as the “Kosher Columbo,” Rabbi Goldzweig is a loveable mashgiach’s mashgiach who has played a pivotal role in making the OU the leading kosher certifying agency in the world.

Finally, we offer tips for the frugal traveler. Who says those of us on tight budgets can’t go on vacation? Author Rivka Slatkin shows us how to vacation—and have fun—without breaking the bank.

Enjoy all of this in addition to an array of stimulating and thought-provoking articles on halachah, travel, Jewish books and more. I wish all of you a happy and healthy summer.

This article was featured in the Summer 2011 issue of Jewish Action.