Inside the OU

Inside the OU – Fall 2018

Happenings Around the OU

The Zula band celebrating the launch of their album at the First Station in Jerusalem.

Healing Through Music
Harel Chetzroni, founder of the Pearl and Harold Jacobs Zula Outreach Center in Jerusalem known as “the Zula,” and his staff had a dream: to record some of the inspirational music sung by the struggling teens who come to the Zula.

A magnet in Jerusalem for at-risk youth, the Zula, established in 2001, is open a few nights a week from midnight until dawn, serving as a safe haven for at-risk youth in Jerusalem who might otherwise be on the street. Many of these youth are often estranged from their families, have dropped out of school and are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

This past June, after over two years of hard work, the Zula band released their first album entitled Ma’agal Shel Shamayim (Circle of Heaven). “Through the collaboration of our musicians and youth, our young people discovered their own incredible talent and, most importantly, it helped them begin to believe in themselves,” says Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director, OU Israel.

Proceeds will go to help the Zula reach even more youth. The CD can be purchased at

Spiritual Charging Station—for Rabbis
Aiming at strengthening Jewish communities, the Pepa and Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue and Community Services starts at the top: The rabbi.

Dr. David Pelcovitz at the recent Rabbinic Retreat. Dr. Pelcovitz spoke about dealing with distraction in the digital age and tackling the addiction epidemic. Photo: Chris Gillyard Photography

This past April, the Third Annual Nathan and Louise Schwartz Rabbinic Retreat held in Orlando, Florida, provided dozens of rabbis from states in the west and southeast with the opportunity to spiritually recharge while discussing contemporary challenges facing the rabbinate. Topics at the three-day retreat included how to reach the millennial generation, abuse and the #metoo movement, and new frontiers in teaching Torah. Presenters included Dr. Gavriel Fagin, Director of Tikunim Counseling Services; Dr. David Pelcovitz, Professor of Psychology and Education at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration; renowned motivational speaker Mr. Charlie Harary, Esq.; Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman, Director of OU’s The Women’s Initiative, and Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU Executive Vice President, Emeritus.

Yachad members display the menu to diners as they enter Yachad Israel’s Pop-Up Café. Photo: Mordy Portal Photography

Pop-Up Café Inclusion
Yachad Israel’s new vocational program completed its first year in style. Launched by Vocational Program Director Lisa Galinsky, the program teaches Yachad members the various skills necessary to enable them to successfully join the workforce. To showcase what they have learned and to spread the message of inclusion, this past June, Yachad transformed the Yachad Center in Jerusalem—where the vocational program is held—into a Pop-Up Dairy Café. The café, open for one night only, had Yachad members serving dinner to more than 100 diners—double the expected turnout! All proceeds from the café went to the Yachad Vocational Scholarship Fund, to enable individuals with disabilities to gain vocational skills.


Teens on The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey (TJJ). Photo: Josh Weinberg

We were trailblazers, since this was one of the first [Israel touring] programs created exclusively for public school kids.
—Rabbi Barry Goldfischer, founding director of TJJ.

Back in 1999, The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey (TJJ), an NCSY summer program in Israel for Jewish public-school students, recruited thirty-five teens for its inaugural summer. Now celebrating its twentieth anniversary, TJJ brought over 500 teens to Israel this past summer.

Advocacy Wrap Up

OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin (center), with NYC Public Advocate Letitia James (left) and day school students from every borough, speaks at a rally at City Hall. At the rally, Jewish and Muslim leaders called on the Mayor to make the “Free Lunch for All” program available to all students. Photo: Lia Jay Photography

Historic $1 Million for Kosher/Halal Meals in Schools
Following a comprehensive advocacy campaign by Teach NYS—a branch of the OU’s Teach Advocacy Network—and its coalition partners, the New York City budget for fiscal year 2019 will include, for the first time, $1 million in funding for a pilot program to provide kosher and halal meals for students at both public and nonpublic schools. This new kosher and halal lunch program reflects the leadership of New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Chaim Deutsch.

In September 2017, Mayor de Blasio announced the start of a universal lunch program to provide free and nutritious meals to all students in all schools across New York City, regardless of income or school placement. However, this program did not include those who had religious dietary requirements. In response, Teach NYS launched an advocacy campaign focused on correcting this inequity.

“I’m grateful for the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson . . . and appreciative towards the advocates like Teach NYS and the Orthodox Union who helped make this a reality. This is a huge step forward towards ensuring that kosher and halal meals become a universal option for the 1.5 million New York City students.”
—Chaim Deutsch, New York City Council Member

“This $1 million investment in both our public and non-public schools in providing kosher and halal meal options to our Jewish and Muslim students will assure that our students are less likely to go hungry and will make universal free lunch a reality for all. I thank Council Member Chaim Deutsch for his leadership as well as Teach NYS for their advocacy on behalf of young New Yorkers.”
—Corey Johnson, New York City Council Speaker

Governor Andrew Cuomo high-fives students at HAFTR during his visit to announce state security aid. Courtesy of the Governor’s Office

Cuomo Receives Mezuzah at State Funding Announcement
During a special visit to the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) on Long Island, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced over $2 million of funding for Long Island schools and institutions as part of the state’s Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program. Organized and promoted by Teach NYS, a division of the OU’s Teach Advocacy network, the visit had representation from nearly every Long Island Jewish day school and elected officials from every level of government.

Teach NYS helped to create this $25 million competitive grant as part of the 2017 adopted State budget and wanted to bring Governor Cuomo to different schools to demonstrate our gratitude on behalf of the community.

In appreciation, HAFTR Vice President of Political Affairs and Teach NYS lay leader Cal Nathan presented Governor Cuomo with a 3-D printed mezuzah case, which was later hung on the doorpost of the Governor’s mansion in Albany. The Governor thanked Teach NYS for its dedication and emphasized the importance of this grant initiative.

Later that morning, Governor Cuomo visited Magen David Yeshivah (MDY) in Brooklyn, New York, another recipient of the grant funds.

“When our community faced accelerating acts of anti-Semitism . . . the governor called together religious leaders from across the state and gave them a simple, clear and courageous message: hate crimes will not be tolerated in New York state,” said OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin to the packed house at MDY. “When the governor says something is not going to happen, it’s not just words.”

Teach NYS has long worked on school security and safety. In 2013, Teach NYS played a leading role in urging the state legislature to include $4.5 million in security funds in the SAFE Act. In 2015 Teach NYS led a coalition to pass a nonpublic school safety bill in New York City. In 2016, Teach NYS advocated successfully to increase the security funds in the SAFE act to $15 million. Teach NYS continues to urge the legislature for further increases, highlighting the growing threats many nonpublic schools face.

Rabbi Saul Zucker, Head of School, Ben Porat Yosef (left) and student representatives from the school with Dr. Lamont Repollet, New Jersey Commissioner, Department of Education, at the breakfast.

Breakfast for Success
It was with an air of determination and purpose that hundreds of community supporters, including dozens of New Jersey legislators, filled the ballroom of the Teaneck Marriot for the Teach NJS Legislative Breakfast. Teach NJS, a satellite of the OU’s Teach Advocacy Network, is dedicated to securing government funding to ensure that Jewish schools are safe and equitably funded. In recognition of his ongoing support of the Teach NJS mission, New Jersey State Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) was given a special award for his leadership in championing legislation to fund nonpublic school security needs.

In addition to highlighting past successes, including a $40 million allocation in state aid toward security, nursing, technology and textbooks for nonpublic schools for the 2018 fiscal year, the breakfast also promoted increased involvement by the community to make Teach NJS a stronger advocacy organization. For more information on the important work of Teach NJS, please e-mail or visit

From left: OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane, OU Advocacy Executive Director Nathan Diament, OU Board of Directors Chairman Howard Tzvi Friedman and OU Advocacy Chairman Jerry Wolasky present an award to US Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ, center). The OU honored Rep. Smith for his many years of work and dedication to pass legislation that makes disaster-damaged shuls and other houses of worship eligible for FEMA funding.

Highlights of the Washington Mission
Some 100 Orthodox rabbis and communal leaders from across the country convened at the nation’s capital this past June to join in the 22nd Annual Leadership Mission to Washington. During the mission, participants discussed key issues including US policy toward Israel, school choice, and security funding for synagogues and schools.

Bottom, from left: Mr. Wolasky, Mr. Friedman, Mr. Diament, US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Mr. Bane.

New Positions & Promotions

A warm welcome to Shani Malitzky, the new Program Director of The Women’s Initiative. Shani looks forward to bolstering and expanding the department’s current offerings, which include providing female scholars in residence, learning opportunities for all ages and skill levels, lay leadership training and encouraging active involvement in synagogue life. For the past ten years, Shani served as Director of Student Life at Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central), where she also worked in community engagement, alumni relations and fundraising. She is currently a doctoral candidate at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, and received her master’s in Jewish education and administration from there as well. Shani lives in West Hempstead, New York, with her husband and two children.

Rabbi Judah Mischel joins National and New York NCSY as Mashpia. He will be working closely with all levels of NCSY staff, creating a stronger community of volunteer advisors and helping focus NCSY’s professional staff on healthy and positive spiritual growth. Rav Judah is Executive Director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. He founded Tzama Nafshi, an organization dedicated to fostering Jewish education and inspiration, committed to working to connect Jews with their heritage and each other. Rav Judah and his wife, Ora, live in Ramat Beit Shemesh with their eight children.

The Teach Advocacy Network welcomes Avi Spitzer as Director of Lay Network Development. Avi looks forward to working with a great team and hopes to assist them in their mission of ensuring that all Jewish schools are safe and fairly funded by the government. For the last six years he served as Executive Director of the Sephardic Community Federation (SCF), the government relations and public policy arm of the Sephardic community. Avi received his bachelor’s in political science from Brooklyn College. Some of his best ideas for implementing new initiatives came to him while biking around his local park, a favorite pastime. Avi lives in Brooklyn with his wife and four children.

Congratulations to Maury Litwack on his promotion to Chief of Staff. Maury will retain his critical role as the Director of the Teach Advocacy Network—the OU’s state and local government advocacy efforts in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida and California. With the significant expansion of staff within the Teach Advocacy Network, Maury will concentrate on the overall management of the Department, and the creation and implementation of our advocacy strategy and goals. As Chief of Staff, Maury will be responsible for carrying out special projects as assigned by OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin; coordinating inter-departmental teams focused on particular operational or programmatic endeavors; and ensuring that specified initiatives, programs and policies are implemented effectively.


Women in Action

Recipients of the OU Women’s Initiative Challenge Grant
The WI Challenge Grant appealed to synagogues nationwide to develop plans for innovative programming that address the needs of women in their respective communities. For more information, visit

Lincoln Square
New York, New York
The Women’s Torah and Leadership Training Program is a program that will develop a cadre of women leaders armed with self-confidence in crafting and delivering classes, shiurim, d’vrei Torah, as well as teaching strategies for cultivating community growth and effective direction for constituents.

Congregation Keter Torah
Teaneck, New Jersey
The Women’s Beit Medrash in Halacha and Gemara is a learning program that includes chevrutot and shiruim for both beginners and advanced learners on an array of topics.

Keneseth Beth Israel
Richmond, Virginia
Tools for Life is a program based on the three pillars of emunah as described by Rav Yosef Albo in Sefer HaIkkarim that is directed toward Jewish women of all ages and educational backgrounds, providing them with Torah-based tools that can help them better connect to Hashem, Torah learning and the community.

Young Israel of Southfield
Southfield, Michigan
Your Voice – Our Community is a Shabbat program and Sunday leadership training and team building retreat to take place over Parshat Chayei Sara, focused on gaining concrete leadership skills and tools, as well as strengthening the connections with each other, which will inform the development of future synagogue programming.

Suburban Torah
Livingston, New Jersey
The Women’s Center for Inspired Judaism will be a hub of inspiring Jewish learning and activity for the women in the community, in addition to specialized programming for seniors, and middle school and teenaged girls.

Young Israel Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Eishet Chayil Initiative provides a series of workshops delivered by Orthodox women on a multitude of relevant topics.

Young Israel of Greater Cleveland
Greater Cleveland, Ohio
Saturday Night In(side Torah): Learning and Entertainment for the Women of our Communityis a weekly program designed to encourage increased engagement in Torah learning for a growing cohort of connected inter-generational women throughout the Summer 2018 season.

United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston
Houston, Texas
More than Challah and Candlesticks: Women’s Relationship to Judaism in an Orthodox Context is a program centered around teaching and mentorship designed to maintain and fortify the community in the wake of Hurricane Harvey – the third flood to hit the United Orthodox Synagogues (UOS) community.

Young Israel of Toco Hills
Atlanta, Georgia
The Women’s Seder Avodat Yamim Noraim is a program designed to create the environment necessary for women to prepare themselves spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually for the Yamim Noraim.

Congregation Darchei Noam of Fairlawn
Fair Lawn, New Jersey
The Women’s Professional Mentorship Program is designed to create a mutually supportive network of Orthodox professional women of all ages and develop skills and knowledge unique to the needs of Orthodox women in the workplace.

Young Israel of Oceanside
Oceanside, New York
M’Dor L’Dor: Cultivating Jewish Female Leadership Across Generations is a program that features a series of monthly chaburot, pairing pre-teen and teen young women of their youth department with more senior women in the synagogue to examine the history and future of female Orthodox Jewish leadership in our community and beyond.

Beth Jacob Congregation
Oakland, California
Learn to Lead is a monthly Sunday morning beit midrash program led by a female Rosh Beit Midrash/Community Scholar, designed to both educate and prepare women to present classes or drashot to the entire community.

Congregation Agudath Sholom
Stamford, Connecticut
Transmitting Torah: By Women…For Women is a program designed to create a vibrant community of women in both beginners and advanced tracks, to study together as a cohort and prepare d’vrei Torah and shiurim throughout the course of the year.

Westwood Kehilla
Los Angeles, California
Inspired Leadership for Women, through the hiring of a part-time female employee dedicated toward efforts for the women of the community, will increase women’s programming, participation, and leadership in synagogue life.

Shomrei Torah
Fair Lawn, New Jersey
The Women’s Institute of Learning and Leadership is a community-wide institute designed to promote multifaceted programming for girls and women of all ages via interactive learning platforms that utilize virtual meeting software to establish shiurim and chevruta opportunities for women.

Bnai Jacob Shaare Zion
Baltimore, Maryland
The Women’s Education Department will hire a staff member to provide classes and chaburot, in addition to making various resources available to women in need of guidance.

New From OU Press

Blessings and Thanksgiving
By Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
Edited by Rabbi Shalom Carmy

and Dr. Joel B. Wolowelsky
OU Press and Maggid Books

This volume contains ten studies on prayer, based on previously unpublished manuscripts and edited transcripts of public lectures, as well as essays newly translated from Yiddish and Hebrew, by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Prayer was a central concern of the Rav, and he approached this theme in a variety of different modes. As the editors write in their preface to the volume, Blessings and Thanksgiving is “more concerned with the text and texture of prayer than with its underlying structure. In these lectures the Rav plumbs many of the details of prayer instead of restricting himself to examples that further his systematic argument. He addresses individual prayers and blessings in their particularity. . . . Without these essays, the Rav’s philosophy of prayer would be drastically incomplete.”

The book’s ten chapters include: The Morning Blessings, a detailed and in-depth examination of the blessings recited each day upon awakening; Pesukei DeZimra and Kaddish, which contrasts the verses of praise recited each day with the Hallel recited on special occasions; Birchot Keriat Shema and Birchot HaTorah, an analysis of the themes of and relationships between these blessings; Birkat HaMazon, a conceptual study of the “grace after meals”; “Grant Us Understanding to Know Your Ways,” reflections on the abridged version of the Amidah, Havinenu, as a means of interpreting the original; Praying for the Defeat of Evil, a philosophical sermon relating to the blessing of VeLaMalshinim; Berakhot in Judaism, an inquiry into what it means for man to bless God; Communal Prayer and the Structure of the Synagogue, which explores what the structure of the synagogue tells us about the concept of communal prayer; the Synagogue as an Institution and as an Idea, a further study of the philosophy behind communal prayer and the meaning of the synagogue; and Old Prayers and “New” Jews, which relates to the question of whether the prayers we recite are outdated and the goal of Jewish prayer.

In this book, the Rav builds his philosophy on a careful analysis of the halachah. Halachic concepts inform philosophical notions, fulfilling the Rav’s commitment to formulating a “new world view out of the sources of Halachah.” But the book also contains personal reminiscences and reflections; prayer, after all, is not merely an intellectual exercise but one that involves the total personality. Here is one small sample of the rich teachings contained in this work:

Fundamentally, there is only one prayer. Fundamentally, there is only one tzibbur: the invisible Knesset Yisrael, embracing the past, the present, and the future, prays with every minyan. The tzibbur in the synagogue is the micro-Knesset Yisrael of ten which represents, personifies, the macro-community of the invisible Knesset Yisrael, the eternal community . . . One must pray with the entire covenantal community which is present in the Beit HaKnesset, and the sanctity of the Beit HaKnesset is due to that mysterium tremendum. The latter suspends all three time dimensions: the past is not gone yet, the future has already arrived, and we, the ten people, the minyan who live in the present, unite both, past and future. A Beit HaKnesset is the home of prayer…because it is the home of the great Knesset Yisrael, and ipso facto, the home where the Almighty has a rendezvous with the Knesset Yisrael.

Blessings and Thanksgiving is a significant contribution toward our understanding not only of specific prayers but of the Jewish approach to the encounter between man and God.

The Koren NCSY Siddur: A Weekday and Shabbat Siddur for Reflection, Connection, and Learning
Developed by Debbie Stone and Dr. Daniel Rose
OU Press and Koren Publishers

As a result of its remarkably successful educational programs, Shabbatonim and summer programs, NCSY has become synonymous with inspiring countless Jewish teenagers. The Koren NCSY Siddur does the same by drawing upon the foundational text of Jewish prayer, the siddur.

This beautifully designed siddur aims to engage on multiple fronts—intellectually, emotionally and religiously. Toward that goal, the commentary in the siddur is comprised of four different parts: “Reflections” contain provocative questions for the reader to reflect on. “Connections” consist of uplifting stories of inspirational leaders and simple Jews and stirring quotations from a wide array of sources which connect to the prayer text. Full-color photographs provide a visual commentary on the siddur. All this is in addition to the “Learning” section of the commentary, which collects insights from commentators on the siddur, including Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, in addition to many other classical Jewish sources, equipping readers with a repository of background knowledge as well as wisdom.

For pre-teens, teens and Jews of all ages and backgrounds, the Koren NCSY Siddur is sure to light up hearts and enlighten minds toward a meaningful religious experience of davening.

This article was featured in the Fall 2018 issue of Jewish Action.
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