Inside the OU

Inside the OU – Winter 2019

Happenings Around the OU

Campers at Yachad’s Camp Chaverim enjoying the thrill of a nature hike at Dingmans Ferry in Pennsylvania. Among Yachad’s twenty-nine summer programs, Camp Chaverim is its best-kept secret. Over 100 participants attend this male-only, six-week sleepaway summer program for individuals with disabilities ages six to twenty-five. Located on the campus of Camp Magen Avraham in upstate New York, Camp Chaverim provides its campers with the opportunity to socialize and engage with peers while fostering independence.

For more information about Camp Chaverim, visit


On the Road for Torah

Kollel participants sightseeing in the riverfront district along the Savannah River in Savannah, Georgia. Courtesy of Ruvie Sturm


When is a road trip more than just a road trip?

When it’s the Uvelechtecha Baderech Summer Kollel. During three weeks this past summer, fifteen young men traversed the East Coast, visiting dozens of Jewish communities—including Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Richmond, Virginia, Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia—teaching Torah along the way. Whether running programming for high schoolers, visiting seniors in an assisted living facility or learning in the beit midrash, the kollel members brought a dose of spiritual energy to each city they visited.

“Growing up in the bubble of the tri-state area, we are often oblivious to the richness of Jewish life ‘out of town,’” said kollel participant Chaim Book. “This trip really gave us a glimpse of the sacrifice and beauty of a Jewish community.”

Directed by Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz of Yeshivat Sha’alvim, the program was sponsored by the OU Department of Synagogue and Community Services and Yeshivat Sha’alvim, in partnership with Camp Kaylie and a dozen OU-affiliated shuls.


Recognizing Leaders at Teach NYS Gala

Maury Litwack, Executive Director, Teach Coalition, presents an award to New York State Senator Shelley Mayer.


We are grateful to Senator Mayer for her leadership in Albany on behalf of each and every New York child. — Maury Litwack, Executive Director, Teach Coalition

Key New York State legislators joined with school heads and lay leaders from nonpublic schools across the state at the annual Teach NYS Dinner to celebrate this year’s historic achievements, including the additional $60 million in government funding secured for nonpublic schools, as well as the legislature’s historic STEM bill. Honored for their advocacy and support were New York State Senator Shelley Mayer, and lay leaders Daniel Lowy, and Elizabeth and Joe Braha. Mayer, the Chair of the Committee on Education in the New York State Senate, has been a champion of increased government funding for nonpublic schools. Teach NYS, a division of the OU’s Teach Coalition, advocates for equitable government funding for New York’s nonpublic schools to increase security, enhance education and defray the costs of state-mandated services.

For more information, visit


OU Israel Celebrates Forty Years of Inspiring the World from Yerushalayim

Yaakov Shwekey performs in honor of OU Israel’s fortieth anniversary. Photo: Shlomi Pinto Studio Photography


In celebration of OU Israel’s forty years of growth, more than 5,000 people joined the festivities at a Yaakov Shwekey concert in August, held in Rishon Le’Tzion. The OU Israel Center first opened its doors in downtown Jerusalem in 1979, with the mission of strengthening the bonds between the Jewish people, Torah and the Land of Israel. In the forty years since, the OU Israel Center has expanded, moved premises and grown above and beyond the dreams of its founders. This past year alone, more than 110,000 people have visited the Seymour J. Abrams Jerusalem World Center, OU Israel’s headquarters. Their programs include the Jack E. Gindi Oraita Program, Makom Balev, the Pearl and Harold Jacobs Zula Outreach Center, the L’ayla Women’s Initiative, NCSY Israel, Camp Dror and more. The celebrations have stretched out across the year, including a Yom Ha’atzmaut event, culminating with the mega-event of Torah Yerushalayim in October (see following page

“Today, OU Israel offers an unbelievable array of classes, events and programs; it has truly become a home away from home for Anglos in Israel, whatever their stage in life. We offer something for everyone.”   —Executive Director, OU Israel Rabbi Avi Berman

OU Israel also honored the contributions of Phil Chernofsky, the recently retired Educational Director and Editor of Torah Tidbits who for thirty-eight years played “a vital role in shaping OU Israel into what it is today,” said OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane. “From the Torah Tidbits weekly magazine that he launched in 1992 that reaches 55,000 readers each week, to his Shabbatonim and shiurim, Phil unstintingly gave of himself, changing the landscape of Torah learning for English speakers in Israel and the world over. His impact is immeasurable.”


OU-JLIC Expands on the Israel Front

By Simcha Himmel

Rabbi Yehuda and Chagit Peles

With a rising number of Anglos choosing to continue their secular education in Israel, the OU’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC), in partnership with World Mizrachi, just opened a second campus program in Israel at Bar-Ilan University. Serving at an off-campus site in Givat Shmuel are Rabbi Yehuda and Chagit Peles, OU-JLIC’s newest Torah Educator couple. Rav Yehuda spent nine years studying at Yeshivat Har Etzion, obtained semichah from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, served as a paratrooper in the IDF and received degrees in chinuch, Tanach and Jewish philosophy at Herzog College. Chagit received her bachelor’s from Hebrew University and a master’s from the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine in Tzfat and is a registered dietitian. She is currently studying at Bar-Ilan University for her PhD in nutrition. OU-JLIC, also at IDC-Herzliya, is currently on twenty-three campuses in the United States, Canada and Israel.


Torah Takes the Mound at Citi Field

Around 2,500 participants came to listen and learn from twenty-nine internationally renowned scholars at the OU’s third annual Torah New York event at Citi Field in September. In preparation for the Yamim Noraim, the day of Torah learning and inspiration featured sessions on a wide range of topics, from repentance in an age of social media to smart homes and Shabbat observance. Photos: Kruter Photography

Participants watching the never-before-seen recording of the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, delivering one of his famed annual Teshuvah Derashot, which screened several times throughout the day.


From left: OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane and OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin welcoming participants to the third annual Torah New York event.


Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, an internationally acclaimed Posek, and Rosh Yeshivah of Lev Academic Center, explaining halachic concerns raised by smart homes and artificial intelligence in the Jewish home.


Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky, Rosh Yeshivah of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington Tiferes Gedaliah in Silver Spring, Maryland, discussing the meaning of Jewish unity.


US Air Force Captain Mark Edelstein chatting with Rabbi Moshe Schwed, Director, OU Daf Yomi Initiative, at Torah New York.


Famed speaker Charlie Harary leading a discussion at the OU’s NextDor Networking Program for young professionals.


Dr. Ora Wiskind, Associate Professor and Head of the Graduate Program in Jewish Studies at Michlalah College, Jerusalem, speaking about self-transformation during Tishrei.


Introducing Torah Jerusalem

Photo: Moshe Biton


Expanding upon the OU’s successful Torah events in New York and Los Angeles, OU Israel hosted the inaugural Torah Yerushalayim event at the Ramada Jerusalem Hotel in October. With over 2,000 in attendance, the day of learning, chizuk and transformation in preparation for Yom Kippur featured more than thirty-five Torah educators and lecturers. Pictured: Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, Founder and Dean of Migdal Ohr educational institutions, speaking at the event.


Women in Action

Leading the Way in Women’s Torah Scholarship

Rabbanit Shani Taragin, Senior Lecturer at Matan Eshkolot, served as Scholar-in-Residence in Teaneck, New Jersey for the WI’s “Weekend of Inspiration,” held the Shabbat prior to the OU’s Torah New York event. Above, Rabbanit Taragin speaks at Torah New York. Photo: Kruter Photography


“Adina Shmidman is now the destination for rabbis across the nation seeking women scholars.” —Etta Brandman Klaristenfeld, Chair of the Women’s Initiative

Since its founding in 2017, the OU Women’s Initiative has made showcasing, supporting and developing women’s scholarship a pillar of its work. Through its ongoing Scholars Program, WI events bring high-caliber women scholars—both known and emerging—to shuls, schools and audiences across the nation, deepening religious and communal engagement. WI’s most recent events included:

  • Shavuot 2019: Counting Toward Sinai—A series of scholar-in-residence programs during the weeks of Sefirah highlighted the growth opportunity between Pesach and Shavuot and featured female scholars in more than twenty-five communities across North America. Thanks to this WI program, a 120-year-old shul in the mid-Atlantic region hosted the second female speaker in its history.
  • Weekend of Inspiration—In preparation for the Yamim Noraim, noted speakers Mrs. Dina Schoonmaker and Rabbanit Shani Taragin delivered shiurim at day schools and shuls on Friday and Shabbat leading up to the OU’s Torah New York event. The shiurim, presented in Far Rockaway and Kew Garden Hills, New York, and Teaneck, New Jersey (respectively), culminated with pre-Selichot presentations and webcasts on Motzaei Shabbat.
  • Simchat Torah Together 2019— Partnering with over forty shuls across the US and Canada, WI sponsored meaningful shiurim for women during the aliyot on Simchat Torah morning. Each shiur was given by a local female scholar in each shul’s community.

“The WI looks forward to continuing to partner with our shuls and communities to provide growth and learning opportunities for women,” said Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman, Director of WI.

For more information regarding the WI and upcoming programs, visit


New Positions & Promotions

Welcome To . . .

Rachel Sims, Esq. who serves as General Counsel for the OU. Rachel’s responsibilities include coordinating all legal and compliance work, advising OU departments on legal matters, and handling special projects as requested by the OU President, Executive Vice President and Executive Committee. Rachel served as a senior litigator at the Blank Rome law firm for the past five years. Prior to that, she was a litigator at prestigious New York law firms after completing Brooklyn Law School magna cum laude, where she was a member of the Brooklyn Law Review.

…Miriam Braun, who joins the OU Marketing and Communications Team as Senior Marketing Manager. She primarily manages Yachad’s digital and social media needs, and advises on broader OU Communications initiatives. Miriam comes to the OU with over five years of experience as Digital Marketing Manager at Jewish National Fund, where she managed all digital campaigns and social media. Prior to that, she worked at various ad agencies, managing clients in both the non-profit and for-profit world. Miriam is a graduate of the Macaulay Honors College at Baruch and she holds a bachelor’s in business marketing.

…Nina Halon, who joins the OU’s Human Resources team as a Talent Management Specialist. After working in human capital within non-profits, finance and commodities trading, Nina is stepping in to drive the OU’s professional development trainings. She believes in actively working toward workplace satisfaction and productivity and enjoys being a part of that process. Nina earned a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from Mercy College and holds a master’s in social organizational psychology from Columbia University.

Congratulations To . . .

…Josh Gottesman, who has been promoted to OU Assistant Director of Human Resources. He focuses on the professional development of one of the OU’s biggest assets, its employees. Prior to joining the HR team six years ago, Josh worked for NCSY for eight years. Josh holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Yeshiva University, an MBA in industrial/organizational psychology and HR management from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, and is certified as a Senior Certified Professional by the Society for Human Resource Management.

…Nathan Diament, OU Executive Director for Public Policy, on being named to the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) newly created Subcommittee for the Prevention of Targeted Violence Against Faith-Based Communities. Diament is among eleven representatives from diverse American faith communities and law enforcement leaders appointed to the group. The committee was formed in the wake of recent attacks against synagogues, churches, temples and mosques and will focus on the security of faith-based organizations across the country.


New from OU Press

Shalom Rav: Insights on the Weekly Parasha— Bereshit and Shemot
By Rabbi Shalom Rosner
OU Press and Maggid Books

Rabbi Shalom Rosner is well-known for his popular and engaging shiurim on a wide variety of Torah subjects. This volume collects Rabbi Rosner’s inspirational shiurim on the weekly parashah, containing a broad array of brief observations culled from a wide range of Torah sources. In addition to the classic commentaries on the Torah, Rabbi Rosner presents insights and stories from a host of gedolim of the recent past, including Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Avrohom Pam, Rabbi Shimon Schwab, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe and Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, as well as contemporary leaders such as Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Rabbi Yitzhak Zilberstein, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, Rabbi Asher Weiss and Rabbi Yaakov Medan. This partial listing should give the reader some sense of the breadth of sources one will encounter in this work.

Rabbi Rosner’s focus is not on the simple meaning or peshat of the text, but rather on the inspirational message that can be derived from the Torah’s teachings. In this regard, Shalom Rav follows the long and distinguished tradition of derush, homiletical works that seek to address our contemporary issues through the lens of the parashah. By use of parables, anecdotes, analogies and sharp interpretations, baalei derush find lessons in the parashah for our everyday lives. To give one example, Rabbi Rosner cites Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, who explains the lesson behind the names of Yosef HaTzaddik’s children, Efraim and Menashe:

Rav Zevin points out that these two names are not just about one individual and his two children. We know that the actions of the fathers portend for their descendants; in this case, these two children represent middot that we all have to have. We’re referred to as she’erit Yosef and haben yakir li Efraim. We are all Yosef’s children, so we are all Menashe and Efraim. They represent two of our kochot: Menashe represents turning from evil—help me root out my pain, my difficulties, the negative. Efraim represents doing good, gaining the positive. Klal Yisrael is never referred to as Menashe’s children because turning from evil is not the ikar. We are called the children of Efraim because the ikar is the obligation, the doing good, the light of Torah . . .

In the pages of Shalom Rav, readers will find an abundance of derush in keeping with the finest of this venerable tradition.


OU Press Classics
Between the Lines of the Bible:
1. Genesis—Recapturing the Full Meaning of the Biblical Text
2. Exodus—A Study from the New School of Orthodox Torah Commentary
By Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom
OU Press and Urim Publications

In contrast to the works of derush discussed above, Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom’s Between the Lines of the Bible series advocates for a focus on the peshat, the plain sense of the text, while incorporating new insights culled from modern disciplines such as archeology and literary analysis. Rabbi Etshalom’s work presents an opportunity for readers to become familiar with the work of one of the great proponents of the “new Orthodox school” of Biblical commentary. This methodology, which has emerged over the last generation primarily in Religious Zionist circles in Israel, offers an approach which is rooted in tradition but also highly innovative. In encountering the text on its own without preconceived notions, Rabbi Etshalom discovers new solutions to ancient questions, and answers more recent questions raised by Biblical critics. Between the Lines of the Bible is an excellent introduction to a new world of Torah commentary, which is both highly original and deeply committed.

This article was featured in the Winter 2019 issue of Jewish Action.
We'd like to hear what you think about this article. Post a comment or email us at