Inside the OU – Fall 2022

Happenings Around the OU

SUPPORT FOR UKRAINIAN JEWRY

Teens Bring Cheer to Orphans

An NCSY teen playing with an orphaned Jewish Ukrainian girl at Tikva Children’s Home in Romania.

 

Carrying suitcases filled with teddy bears, games, sports equipment, craft supplies and candy, about twenty high school seniors from Seattle, along with their NCSY advisors, departed in May on NCSY Relief Missions’ first trip to Romania to provide much-needed play, activities, tutoring and moral support to Ukrainian Jewish orphans displaced by the war.

Funded by a grant from the Samis Foundation, the trip was the first of several consecutive, week-long relief missions of NCSY teens to the Tikva Children’s Home, originally from Odessa, Ukraine, which houses 300 orphaned, abused or abandoned Jewish children. After fleeing Odessa, Tikva relocated to Neptun, a coastal city on the Black Sea east of Bucharest.

“Tikva is in dire need of volunteers who can hit the ground running,” said Rabbi Ethan Katz, director of NCSY Relief Missions. “Our goal is to bring some joy into these children’s lives and show them they’re not alone, that there are people who care about them and want to help them.”

 

What Your Dollars Have Achieved

Volunteers organize materials in a distribution warehouse in Ukraine

 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine instigated the largest humanitarian crisis Europe has experienced in decades and continues to threaten the existence of Ukraine’s Jewish community. In the months since the war’s inception, the OU, in collaboration with the RCA, the National Council of Young Israel, Vaad Hatzalah and Agudath Israel, continued to work diligently with organizations on the ground to provide relief to refugees.

Key efforts included:

      Raising over $5 million in emergency donations to directly save and sustain lives. This included the most recent campaign to combat food insecurity through donations of just $75 a month, as well as the Shuls for Ukrainian Jewry campaign, where more than 100 shuls across North America raised funds to help evacuate those in war zones and provide food and shelter.

      Implementing a distribution system, spearheaded by Zevy Wolman, Director-at-Large on the OU Board of Directors and Chair of Community Projects and Partnerships, and Rabbi Simon Taylor, OU National Director of Community Projects and Partnerships, of food donations (including 5,900 ready-to-eat kosher meals) and medical supplies. Food and supplies were funded mostly by donations with a portion sponsored by OU Kosher’s network of manufacturers. Logistics teams in the United States, United Kingdom, Israel and Europe—totaling thirty people—were established to coordinate food transport, medicine procurement, air freight, and customs documentation and clearance. During the Pesach season, Maos Chittim donations enabled this supply chain to deliver more than 200 tons of food and holiday essentials to over 30,000 people.

Two young Jewish Ukrainian refugees with a box of food provided by the OU’s Pesach distribution campaign.

 

Currently, while the war unfortunately continues, some semblance of normalcy is returning to many parts of Ukraine. The OU has assessed the situation together with its partners on the ground, Chabad and the Shema Yisrael Foundation, and decided together that the time is right for the OU to turn over to those partners direct responsibility for the food project, along with all the relationships and assets that we have developed to support that effort. As such, the OU is winding down its direct involvement in the project, though we will continue to monitor the situation. We wish Chabad and the Shema Yisrael Foundation every success in their continued efforts on behalf of Ukrainian Jewry.

 

Hundreds of Learners Unite at All Daf Siyumim

OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer (left) and OU Kosher COO and All Daf maggid shiur Rabbi Moshe Elefant (third from left), dancing with talmidim at the All Daf Siyum in Manchester, England.

 

In July, celebrating the completion of Masechet Yevamot, All Daf hosted three consecutive siyumim in Manchester, England; Golders Green, London; and Baltimore, Maryland, attended by hundreds of talmidim who utilize the OU’s All Daf app for their daily Gemara learning.

All Daf is the OU’s innovative Daf Yomi app, presenting shiurim on the daf by world-renowned maggidei shiur. All Daf also provides participants of all backgrounds with the opportunity to enhance their learning with a host of related topics including Jewish history, lomdut and Tanach.

 

Meet the Impact Accelerator’s Fourth Cohort

In June, the OU Impact Accelerator announced the five innovative ventures that will be part of Cohort IV. The organizations were chosen from among seventy-one applicants; each will receive a $10,000 grant to facilitate further growth.

 

After The School Bell empowers elementary school students with accessible, online tutoring that improves academic success and builds confidence while providing an opportunity for volunteer high-school tutors to gain experience and gratification through helping others.

 

The Foundations Curriculum develops passionate Jewish identity rooted in Torah and shmirat hamitzvot through an interactive curriculum framework. By understanding their unique and indispensable roles in Klal Yisrael, participants recognize their spiritual potential and are receptive to further growth.

 

The Jewish Orthodox Women’s Medical Association (JOWMA) provides free health education to the Orthodox Jewish community and supports a network of current and future Jewish female physician leaders.

 

 

Kochvei HaShamayim champions the values of family, community, and education by supporting young Jewish couples, allowing them to minimize difficult compromises and to excel in both their family life and their early career or continued education.

 

Lech-Lecha facilitates empowering outdoor adventures and wilderness journeys that catalyze personal development and spiritual growth deeply rooted in Torah, through a holistic approach to Jewish life and practice.

 

 

The OU Impact Accelerator identifies and advances promising Jewish nonprofits. Through education, mentorship, collaboration, and early-stage funding, the Impact Accelerator empowers great leaders committed to strengthening our communal landscape in new ways.

 

Keeping Our Camps Safe

Right: Campers at Camp Moshava, a member camp of the Teach Coalition Summer Camp Network. The Network encompasses some 4,000 campers during the summer season.

 

With the goal of bolstering security at Jewish sleepaway camps, the Teach Coalition Summer Camp Network—comprised of a group of Jewish sleepaway camps in Pennsylvania—successfully lobbied the Pennsylvania state legislature for security funding, earning individual security grants totaling $1 million through the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant Fund program. The funds enable the sleepaway camps and other nonprofits to secure their premises with physical improvements including gates, fencing, surveillance equipment, protective lighting and more.

Launched in 2022, the Summer Camp Network presents a united front to advocate for state security funding to protect campers, and enables its members to exchange ideas and best practices and to share new funding opportunities.

“Thanks to the Summer Camp Network, Teach is looking out for you and your children in the summer too, not just from September to June,” says Arielle Frankston-Morris, Executive Director of Teach PA.

To donate to the Teach Summer Camp Network, go to teachcoalition.org/donate/camps/.

For more information, contact Arielle Frankston-Morris at ariellefm@teachcoalition.org.

 

Battle of the Robots 

Photo: Middle school students direct their robot across the challenge area at the joint CIJE-Teach Coalition 2022 Robotics Competition. Courtesy of Dean Andrews

 

In April, over 500 Jewish day school and yeshivah students from thirty-seven schools across Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Florida battled it out at the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE) 2022 Robotics Competition. Co-hosted by Teach Coalition and held at Fort Washington Armory Track in Manhattan, the event was a unique opportunity for robotics teams at Jewish schools to compete, as most state and national competitions take place on Shabbat. Nearly 100 robots built and programmed by middle and high school students competed in a variety of matches, with Solomon Schechter of Queens and YBH of Passaic tying for first place in the middle school division, and TABC and JEC tying for first in the high school division.  

“Almost all of the participating schools are members of Teach Coalition,” said Adam Katz, Associate Director of Government Programs for Teach. “Many of these robotics and STEM programs are funded through initiatives that we’ve advocated for, championed and created along with our member schools. It’s amazing to see the outcome of our advocacy and the well-rounded education that is being provided to these students at an event like this.” 

 

SCOTUS: Student Aid Programs Must Include Religious Schools

In June, the OU applauded the US Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Carson v. Makin, which equivocally ruled that the State of Maine’s exclusionary state tuition assistance policy was discriminatory against religion and therefore unconstitutional.

Maine provides tuition assistance payments for all families with school-age children who live in locales that do not operate their own high schools. Under the program, parents may choose the accredited (or otherwise approved) school their child attends, and the state will pay the tuition. Since 1980, Maine has prohibited parents from choosing to enroll their children in “sectarian” high schools under the program. This discriminatory policy was challenged in court twice (1999 and 2004) and the US Court of Appeals upheld the policy. The new recent lawsuit was brought in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s rulings in Trinity Lutheran v. Columbia (2017) and Espinoza v. Montana (2020). In both of those rulings, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional those state aid programs that excluded the participation of religious institutions because of their “status” as religious entities.

“This ruling is the culmination of decades of determined advocacy by the OU and our partners who advocate for religious liberty and parental choice in education,” said OU Executive Director of Public Policy Nathan Diament. “A state discriminating against religion—as Maine did in its tuition assistance program—is just as unconstitutional as a state promoting one particular religion.”

 

WI Challenge Grant Winners

Mazel tov to the ten communities that received grants of $3,600 from the Women’s Initiative’s Challenge Grant 2022 for innovative women’s programming.

Adas Torah, Los Angeles, CA: Providing mentorship for middle-school girls

Anshe Sfard Kehillat Torah (ASKT), Milwaukee, WI: Introducing a monthly women’s forum to foster growth

Congregation Ohr Torah, Edison, NJ: Presenting experiential kashrut education for women of all ages

Congregation Ohab Zedek, New York, NY: Creating a “Women in Network” group to support single women ages thirty-five plus

Dallas Torah Institute, Dallas, TX: Forming “The Jewish Women Business Leaders Networking Group” to strengthen business-related halachic knowledge

Great Neck Synagogue, Great Neck, NY: Establishing “Unite GNS,” a collaborative effort between GNS Bikur Cholim and the shul’s sisterhood and youth committees to strengthen connections between generations

Kivun Houston, Houston, TX: Initiating an event series to connect women bein adam l’chaveiro

Mikvah Emunah Society, Silver Spring, MD: Educating women of all ages about the role of mikvah in the community and the family

Tzaddik Foundation, Cote St. Luc, QC: Founding the Montreal Women’s Community Musical to connect women through musical theater and celebrate local talent in the arts

Young Israel of Fair Lawn, Fair Lawn, NJ: Launching an immersive Shabbaton for young mothers focusing on self-improvement, interpersonal relationships and chinuch

Learn more about the communities and the programs that were chosen at ou.org/women/grant22.

 

Promotions and Achievements

Congratulations to…

. . . Miriam Greenman on her promotion to Chief Information Officer. In this role, Miriam will establish the overall IT vision to ensure that the information technology initiatives roadmap is aligned with strategic organization objectives. Drawing on her experience in program management, enterprise architecture, business analysis, product development, user experience and data analytics, Miriam will manage delivery of IT solutions that balance critical business with innovation, compliance and security best practices to ultimately benefit the entire organization. She has a bachelor’s in computer science from Queens College, and a master’s of science from Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science. Miriam began her career at AT&T Bell Laboratories, then continued at EMC2, before joining the OU six years ago as Director of the talented IT Kashrut team, where she managed the technology solutions that drive the OU Kosher certification division.

. . . Simon Feder on his promotion to Junior Systems Administrator, IT. As a Systems Administrator, Simon will support, implement, and integrate all IT platforms in the OU. Prior to this, Simon was a Desktop Support Analyst with the IT help desk, providing end user support to OU employees for close to three years. Simon holds a bachelor’s in management information systems from Touro College.

 

New From OU Press

The Akeidah: The Epic Confrontation of Din and Rachamim

By Michael Kaiser

OU Press and KTAV Publishing House

In this work, Michael Kaiser presents an original and creative interpretation of the Akeidah, the haunting saga of faith that has intrigued the world for millennia. Beginning at the beginning, with a thorough examination of the Creation passage in Genesis, the author highlights the divergences between the Torah’s two presentations of the Creation narrative and explains that the two accounts correspond to two models of the world. The first account of Creation is that of the attribute of din, strict justice, which leaves no room for human error and fallibility. The second account introduces the element of chesed, Divine kindness, without which we could not exist in a world of free choice. In the pivotal verse which transitions between these two accounts, the Torah alludes to Avraham, whose Divine mission involves repairing the fissure in Creation.

Following this exploration, we are introduced to the major protagonists of the Akeidah and its aftermath—Avraham, Yitzchak, Sarah, Hagar and Yishmael. Notably, the author highlights the essential but often overlooked roles that the female characters, Sarah and Hagar, played in this riveting affair. A close reading of the Biblical text in conjunction with an impressive array of commentators, both ancient and modern, reveals how the drama of the Akeidah lies in the unresolved tension inherent in the Creation of the world, and how the characters in this drama are uniquely suited to fulfill their Divine mission.

The Akeidah plays a central role in Jewish thought in general and is a predominant theme of Rosh Hashanah in particular. This volume explores the relationship of the Akeidah to Rosh Hashanah, with a special focus on the Torah readings of the holiday, as well as the relationship between the mitzvah of shofar and the Akeidah. The book concludes with the text and analysis of a twelfth-century piyut that is the focal point of the Yamim Noraim services in many Sephardic congregations but remains virtually unknown in Ashkenazic circles. The author demonstrates that many themes presented in his work are reflected in this medieval piyut.

In his foreword to the volume, Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter writes: “Once again, Reb Michael has presented us with original, brilliant ideas, this time revolving around one story in the Torah—the complex, challenging, powerful and enigmatic story of the Akeidah. And, once again, the breadth of Reb Michael’s sources is astounding—Chazal and Acharonim, Gemara and Midrashim, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Chasidim and Mitnagdim, Halachah and Aggadah, commentators and codifiers, all presented most cogently, clearly and articulately.”

For all those interested in delving more deeply into the endless enigma of the Akeidah, this book is not to be missed.

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This article was featured in the Fall 2022 issue of Jewish Action.
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