Inside the OU – Winter 2020

Happenings Around the OU

Rabbi Yissachar Krakowski overseeing the kashering of utensils in the kitchen of the St. Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

OU Kosher Tapped by the UAE to Oversee Kosher Food

History was made in August as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) became the first Gulf state to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. A key area of interest for Emiratis is creating travel and tourism opportunities, which for the Jewish community means access to kosher food.

In preparation for the first delegation of Israeli officials to visit the UAE following the announcement of the Abraham Accords, CEO of OU Kosher in Israel Rabbi Yissachar Krakowski traveled to the St. Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, to ensure that all of the food served met kashrut requirements. Working with a local kosher caterer, Rabbi Krakowski and his team oversaw the preparation of 300 kosher meals over the course of the two-day event.

Since the announcement that the UAE and Israel would be normalizing relations, the interest from kosher-observant Jews in visiting has increased dramatically. In September, the leadership of the UAE asked OU Kosher to be the leading kosher certification agency within the Emirates; the following day, the Abu Dhabi government instructed all hotels to offer “kosher food and beverage options on room service menus and at all food and beverage outlets in their establishments.” The Abu Dhabi government has turned to OU Kosher to play a role in this process, which would make Jewish tourism to the UAE more comfortable and accessible.

Most recently, in mid-September, the UAE’s flagship airline Emirates tapped OU Kosher to provide kosher supervision for its new in-flight meal service for flights out of Dubai. The meals with be provided by Kosher Arabia (an Emirati-based kosher caterer) and produced at a special kosher facility in the UAE under the supervision of OU Kosher, in collaboration with the South African Union of Orthodox Synagogues. The program is set to launch in January 2021. While kosher-observant Jews have been able to get kosher food on Emirates flights from the US or Europe going to the UAE, they’ve never before been able to order kosher meals on the return flight. The UAE serves as a hub for many flights from Europe to the Far East and having a kosher commissary available to provide food for those flights will positively impact Jewish travel to other parts of the world.

“As the Jewish community in the UAE continues to grow, and due to the influx of Jewish tourists, there is a need for kosher food and a certification that is internationally known,” said OU Kosher CEO Rabbi Menachem Genack. “We thank the UAE government for reaching out to us to provide this service and are looking forward to partnering with the local Jewish community to provide kosher food and certification.”

 

OU Applauds Historic Abraham Accords

OU representatives attended the White House ceremony in September marking the Israel-UAE “Abraham Accords” and Israel-Bahrain “Declaration of Peace.” In a statement to the press, the OU “saluted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahraini Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani for coming together to usher in a new era of peace, prosperity, hope and security to the Middle East.”

 

Teens worked to rebuild the home of the Long Beach Martin Luther King Center’s chairman, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Photo: Josh Weinberg

Teens Rebuild in Long Beach

This past summer, fifty Jewish teens from NCSY, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and the Long Beach Martin Luther King Center, brought renewal to Long Beach, New York as part of the OU’s Project Community 2020.

The teens helped rebuild the home of the Long Beach Martin Luther King Center’s chairman, worked with volunteers to help feed local residents, beautified the neighborhood, and enhanced the MLK Center’s library offerings.

“By working together with members of other communities and helping the underprivileged, our teens gain understanding of the needs of others and will be better able to partner with other communal groups as the next generation of Jewish leaders.”
—OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer

 

 

AskOU Goes Virtual

More than 1,100 people from twenty-three countries on six continents joined OU Kosher for its annual Harry H. Beren AskOU Virtual seminar. Held virtually in August, the week-long program included sessions on bedikat tolaim (checking for insect infestation) with real-time closeup video of bugs on vegetables, checking and identifying issues in chickens, actual kashering of industrial plants, and the cheese making process, among other topics

 

Focus on Wellbeing

Aiming to strengthen individual and family wellbeing and provide coping strategies and tools during these challenging times, in August the OU launched Project Resilience, a four-week series of free virtual courses presented by mental health professionals to encourage healing from the anxiety, depression and trauma experienced by so many over the course of the pandemic. Over 1,200 people registered for the live series.

Archived videos are accessible to all at ou.org/resilience.

 

OU Provides Holiday Toolkits

In preparation for the Yamim Noraim, thousands visited the OU Department of Torah Initiatives’ “Chag at Home,” a groundbreaking online Torah learning platform featuring hundreds of presentations and Torah source sheets on timely topics from renowned Torah educators. Building off of the success of “Sinai at Home,” the site will update with new content for each upcoming chag in the months ahead.

 

NCSY Education presents “Box O’ Jewish,” a new monthly box series of Jewish content for the whole family, launched with a Tishrei-themed box containing learning and activities, including the popular mini machzor packet detailing the prayers and practices of Rosh Hashanah. They have since produced a box for Cheshvan, and a Chanukah-themed box for Kislev is set to be delivered in time for the holiday.

 

Addressing their members’ needs, Yachad mailed approximately 275 Rosh Hashanah kits to individuals with disabilities. The kits contained a learning packet and activities that paired with Zoom programming during week leading up to Rosh Hashanah.

 

 

Inspiration from Yerushalayim
More than 2,350 people worldwide joined the OU Israel Center for the annual “Torah Yerushalayim,” a three-day learning event during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah. Held virtually due to Covid-19 precautions, the program, in memory of David and Norma Fund, z”l, featured a blue-ribbon list of forty-nine rabbinic scholars, educators and Jewish communal leaders. Pictured, OU Israel Director Rabbi Ari Berman addresses participants at last year’s event. Photo: Moshe Biton Photography

 

Nusach 101
As a result of Covid-19 precautions, many shuls created multiple smaller minyanim for the Yamim Noraim, leading to a shortage of qualified ba’alei tefillot to lead davening. Enter Ba’al Tefillah Bootcamp, a project of the OU’s Pepa and Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue and Community Services in partnership with the RCA and UJA-Federation of New York, which provided nusach training to more than 235 ba’alei tefillot from 136 Jewish communities worldwide. Chazzan Yitzy Spinner of Great Neck Synagogue in New York (pictured) led the virtual seminars with Rabbi Gedalya Berger, Adult Education Coordinator, OU Synagogue Services.

 

Women in Action

Spotlight: Torat Imecha

In January, the OU Women’s Initiative (WI) launched Torat Imecha, a Nach Yomi initiative where women scholars deliver a daily podcast on the Books of Prophets (Nevi’im) and the Writings (Ketuvim) at the pace of a chapter a day. The shiurim are geared toward learners of all levels who would like to participate in the two-year study cycle. Since its launch, participation has grown, with over 1,500 women across forty states and thirty-three countries taking part. A number of participants spoke with WI about what makes Torat Imecha so meaningful to them.

Listening to the pesukim from Yeshayahu made Tishah B’Av seem so relevant and immediate, as if the Churban happened yesterday. The messages of hope in Nach have played a big part in carrying me through this pandemic, reminding me that though we have been through so much, hope is always on the horizon.”

Keshet Starr, Attorney and CEO of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA), Hillside, New Jersey

 

I’ve been zochah to apply my background in hi-tech to open new channels of communication between the women participating in the program. Back in January, I spearheaded our first Zoom siyum on Sefer Yehoshua (before Corona, when Zoom was still a novelty), where many women delivered beautifully prepared divrei Torah. This has now become the norm for each sefer that we complete.”

Fonda-Fayga Weiss,
Jerusalem, Israel

 

I have been nurturing the hope of completing Nach since attending seminary in Israel. To be able to accomplish this deeply held aspiration, taught by extremely knowledgeable women, is extraordinarily fulfilling. Each teacher is unique, broadening links between text and context.”

Deborah Schick Laufer, OU Board of Governors, Silver Spring, Maryland

 

A friend had e-mailed me a collection of videos from the Siyum HaShas. As the men spoke about their commitment, and I watched them participate in daily study groups on the screen, I thought, “I wish there was something like that for me.” Literally the moment the thought crossed my mind, an e-mail announcing Torat Imecha popped into my inbox! Pure hashgachah pratis!

Shifra Zais, Anchorage, Alaska

 

Shortly before I started Nach Yomi, I named my newborn son Shaul, after his great-grandfather. When we started learning Sefer Shmuel, suddenly the story of Shaul Hamelech—which I had learned many years before—seemed all the more tragic and poignant.

Aliza Agress, Los Angeles, California

 

Torat Imecha is dedicated by Eta Brandman Klaristenfeld, Chair of the WI, in memory of her aunt Malka Nussbaum, Malka Esther Bat Tzvi Yoseph, who developed a love of Tanach and Eretz Yisrael from her school days in Poland ninety years ago.

To subscribe to the daily Torat Imecha shiur, receive the weekly newsletter and access more content, visit https://www.ou.org/women/torat-imecha-sign-up/.

 

New Positions & Promotions

Welcome to . . .

. . . Rabbi Michoel Druin, who has assumed the new role of Head of School, IVDU Schools. He will be working on developing and promoting the schools’ educational vision and enhancing the policies and procedures involving all four IVDU divisions. Rabbi Druin has over twenty years of experience in educational leadership. He has led schools with over 1,000 students, as well as startup schools in South Africa, Miami, Atlanta and New York, and holds a master’s in educational leadership.

 

. . . Debbie Harris, who serves as Yachad Chicago Regional Director. Debbie is excited to grow the Yachad Chicago community by developing social and recreational programing to enrich the lives of individuals with disabilities. Passionate about inclusion, employment and self-advocacy, Debbie brings thirty years of experience in special education to Yachad Chicago. After starting her career as a special education teacher, she moved into the adult sphere, where she has spent the past eighteen years learning and growing with her students. She holds a bachelor’s in special education from the University of Evansville and a master’s in educational leadership from National Louis University.

 

Congratulations to . . .

. . . Rabbi Eli Eleff, OU Kosher Rabbinic Coordinator, on his appointment as Managing Director, OU Kosher Community Relations and Education. In addition to his OU Kosher roles, he serves as a professor of nonprofit management for the Touro College and University System. Rabbi Eleff studied at Mir Yerushalyaim, is a musmach of Yeshivas Ohr HaChaim and holds advanced degrees from Touro and the University of Pennsylvania.

 

. . . Becca Zebovitz, on her promotion to Assistant Director of Yachad. Becca will be assuming responsibility for Yachad’s operations, talent development, data management and compliance. During her eight years at Yachad, Becca has held positions in both administration and development, and has staffed Yad B’Yad, Yachad’s inclusive summer Israel experience. Becca earned a bachelor’s and master’s in public policy at the University of Maryland.

 

. . . Michael Appelbaum, on assuming the role of Assistant Director, Communal Engagement for Yachad, where he will oversee programming in multiple regions, as well as the Yachad Resource and Referral Center and advisor engagement. Prior to this position, Michael was the Chief Compliance Officer for Yachad, and the OU’s Director of Participant Privacy. He received his bachelor’s in political science from Brooklyn College and a master’s in public administration from Baruch College with a concentration in non-profit management.

 

New from OU Press

Judaism’s Life-Changing Ideas: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible

By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

OU Press and Maggid Books

In his newest collection of insights on the weekly parashah, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, zt”l, reorients our view of Judaism to focus not merely on the commandments and beliefs it entails but on the ideas it embodies. These “life changing ideas” have shaped not only Jewish history but the history of humanity as a whole, and Rabbi Sacks identifies such ideas in each parashah. To give one example, in Rabbi Sacks’ words:

Judaism was and remains a dazzlingly original way of thinking about life. Take one of my favorite examples: the American Declaration of Independence (1776) and its most important sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is arguably the most important sentence in the history of modern politics. It was what Abraham Lincoln was referring to in the opening of the Gettysburg Address when he said: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The irony of this sentence, as I have often noted, is that “these truths” are very far indeed from being “self-evident.” They would have sounded absurd to Plato and Aristotle, both of whom believed that not all men are created equal and therefore they do not have equal rights. They were only self-evident to someone brought up in a culture that had deeply internalized the Hebrew Bible and the revolutionary idea set out in its first chapter, that we are each, regardless of color, culture, class, or creed, in the image and likeness of God. This was one of Judaism’s world-changing ideas.n his newest collection of insights on the weekly parashah, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, zt”l, reorients our view of Judaism to focus not merely on the commandments and beliefs it entails but on the ideas it embodies. These “life changing ideas” have shaped not only Jewish history but the history of humanity as a whole, and Rabbi Sacks identifies such ideas in each parashah. To give one example, in Rabbi Sacks’ words:

Rabbi Sacks was rightly regarded as one of the most articulate spokespeople for Judaism today. Those accustomed to Rabbi Sacks’ breadth of knowledge, eloquence and acuity will not be disappointed.

 

Coming Soon from OU Press

Vayehi Bi’nesoa Ha’aron: Seventy Conversations in Transit with HaGaon HaRav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l

By Rabbi Aaron Adler

OU Press and Urim Publications

Rabbi Aaron Adler, a communal rabbi and rosh yeshivah living in Israel, attended Yeshiva University as a student. While there, he had the privilege of serving as Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s driver, transporting him weekly from La Guardia Airport to Yeshiva. In this charming and edifying book, Rabbi Adler records some of the conversations he had with “the Rav” during these trips and the relationship they developed. These discussions relate to halachah, teaching and studying Torah, the wellbeing of Israel and the Jewish people, lessons in ethics, and more “mundane” topics, revealing a more personal dimension of a scholar known for his demanding intellect. This book is also a fulfillment of the Talmud’s directive that “even the ordinary conversation of Torah scholars require analysis” (Sukkah 21b). Rabbi Adler ably draws out the implications of the Rav’s comments and provides the context necessary to understand the chiddush in the Rav’s views.

The Gemara derives the importance of attentiveness to even the ordinary conversation of a talmid chacham from a verse in Tehillim (1:4): “He is like a tree planted beside streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, whose foliage never fades, and whatever it produces thrives.” A generation has gone by since the Rav’s passing but, as this volume demonstrates, his words continue to produce fruit, and his towering persona continues to provide shade.

 

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This article was featured in the Winter 2020 issue of Jewish Action.
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