Happenings Around the OU
Creating Today’s Jewish Leaders
Thanks to a generous $1.75 million grant, Yavneh—a project of the OU’s Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC)—launched YavNext. A Yavneh alumni and young professional network of passionate Jewish leaders in cities around the country, YavNext seeks to develop and mentor the next generation of Modern Orthodox leaders. The grant also enables Yavneh to build and expand its existing programs over the next five years.
“If we are to truly create the leaders of tomorrow, we must support college leaders to transition into adult leaders, capable of thinking both creatively and in harmony with existing Jewish institutions and frameworks,” said Rabbi Jonathan Shulman, Director, Yavneh.
REACH-ing Every Child
In October, Yachad, the OU division for individuals with disabilities in the Jewish community, launched REACH, a new centralized Jewish communal resource and referral service for individuals with disabilities and their families. This free hotline, staffed by a team of trained professionals, provides referrals for a multitude of services—including government-funded programs, special education, therapies, legal services, and social and recreational programs.
“In the past, families of those with disabilities had to rely on reaching out to second- and third-degree connections only to learn that the referral wasn’t related to their immediate need,” said Yachad International Director Avrohom Adler. “Our hope in creating one centralized system is to give the most accurate referral based on the caller’s specific disabilities and circumstances.”
REACH will initially serve the New York region, and plans are in the works to scale operations over time to accommodate families throughout the US. Call 1-877-REACH-52.
Furthering its mission to enhance Jewish communal life and confront ongoing communal challenges, the OU Department of Community Projects and Partnerships, in collaboration with the Cincinnati Jewish community, launched the Empowered Parenting Initiative in August. This year-long pilot program provides exceptional programs, top experts and family experiences, all focused on strengthening the family unit. The various workshops and sessions will cover topics like guiding good choices, modeling digital responsibility, and creating meaningful family-time moments.
“The parent-child relationship is the nucleus of the childhood experience,” said Rabbi Phil Karesh, Executive Director of the OU Department of Community Projects and Partnerships. “When the leadership of Cincinnati learned about this national initiative that we are planning, they were passionate about affecting change in this vital area. We are thrilled to be partnering with them.”
Upholding Religious Liberty
In September, the OU Advocacy Center filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case of Carson v. Makin, urging the US Supreme Court to reverse the decision of the US Court of Appeals (1st Circuit) that allowed Maine to prohibit parents from using state tuition assistance payments at religious high schools. The brief argued that, if adopted, the exclusion of religious people or institutions from government aid programs could well lead to Orthodox Jews and other faith groups being excluded from government-provided programs in the fields of healthcare, safety codes, social services and education. The brief also highlighted the myriad aid programs in which policymakers–often at the OU’s urging—have included religious persons and entities, including federal disaster aid, security grants, Covid relief programs, and more.
New Positions and Promotions
Welcome to . . .
. . . Michal Frankel, Director of Strategic Partnerships, OU West Coast. In this role, Michal will be working to help further the myriad programs and services within the OU, including the Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC), NCSY, Yachad, OU Women’s Initiative, and many more. Michal has fifteen years of experience working in the Jewish nonprofit community, and most recently served as the Director of Strategic Development at RAISE Nonprofit Advisors as a senior consultant. Prior to that Michal spent many years in the field working in national Jewish nonprofit organizations such as UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) on both the East and West coasts.
Congratulations to . . .
. . . Maury Litwack, who has been named Managing Director for Public Affairs. In this new capacity, Maury will be overseeing all of the marketing and communications, institutional advancement and political advocacy functions of the OU. He has served as Founder and Executive Director of the OU’s Teach Coalition for the past eight years, which under his leadership has grown into a multi-state network responsible for billions of dollars in funding to nonpublic schools. Prior to joining the OU, Maury was a Federal Affairs Lobbyist for Miami-Dade county and served as a Legislative Staffer in the US Congress.
. . . Rabbi Gideon Black on his appointment as CEO, New York NCSY. Rabbi Black joins NCSY after a decade working with OU-JLIC, where he served as a mentor to college students and rabbinic couples, first as a Campus Rabbi at NYU and later as Director of Professional Recruitment and Leadership Development. Rabbi Black looks forward to utilizing his experiences to better reach and impact the next generation of Jewish teens.
. . . Becca Zebovitz on her promotion to Director of Donor Services, Institutional Advancement. As Director, Becca will be responsible for supporting department/regional dedicated fundraisers through researching and implementing best practices, lead generation, and facilitating interdepartmental collaboration. Prior to this role, Becca worked for Yachad, where she held roles in both operations and development. She will be bringing her unique mix of experiences to support the growth of the Institutional Advancement Department.
Women in Action
Bringing Nach Full Circle
For thousands of women across the globe, this coming January will mark a milestone achievement—the completion of two years of daily Nach learning with the OU Women’s Initiative’s Torat Imecha. Launched in January 2020, this podcast of daily shiurim by women scholars, geared to learners of all levels, has been one of the WI’s most popular programs, with participants from across forty states and thirty-four countries. In celebration of this momentous achievement, WI spoke with several of the talented educators who brought Nach to life in their daily shiurim.
“Iyov plays a seminal role in our understanding of personal suffering and faith during crisis. I loved learning the various classical midrashim, commentators and thinkers and introducing this wealth of knowledge to those who were learning
“Sefer Yehoshua reminds us that Eretz Yisrael is the Promised Land, and it is our Land. What I enjoyed the most about teaching Nach Yomi were the many, many new insights that I myself learned from preparing all the shiurim.”
“When teaching, I strive to expose students to fundamental Jewish ideas and their eternal truths. Shir Hashirim is replete with analogies which must be understood on a more esoteric level. Many kabbalistic ideas are brought to light as one delves into the nuances of the human-Divine attachment.
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to delve into a sefer I never explored before in depth and find ways to make it meaningful and make it my own. The format of Torat Imecha Nach Yomi forces you to understand the sefer and then crystalize your ideas in a succinct manner.”
“I don’t think I am alone in my opinion that Tehillim speaks to us women more than any other book in Tanach. I found so much comfort in Dovid Hamelech’s beautiful praise, startlingly relatable struggles, pain and gratitude. In learning and teaching Nach Yomi, I enjoyed the feeling of connection to so many other women around the world, all studying the same chapter of Nach.”
“Yirmiyahu helps us discover truths of the human condition and can help us grow and become better, more thoughtful, honest and kinder people. What I enjoyed greatly in teaching Nach Yomi—and did not anticipate—was the feedback. The many women who emailed me their ideas, reflections and questions pushed me in my understanding of the sefer.”
To sign up for the next cycle of Torat Imecha Nach Yomi, visit ou.org/women/nach22.
New From OU Press
The Anatomy of Jewish Law: A Fresh Dissection of the Relationship Between Medicine, Medical History, and Rabbinic Literature
By Edward Reichman
OU Press and Maggid Books
In this innovative new work, Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman traces the medical understanding of anatomy, physiology and therapeutics across time and genres of rabbinic literature. Rabbi Dr. Reichman, a world-renowned expert in the fields of Jewish bioethics and Jewish medical history, is professor of emergency medicine and professor of bioethics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and an attending physician in emergency medicine at Montefiore Medical Center. In addition, he is a talmid chacham of note who received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University.
The book contains five sections, divided into twenty-six chapters. In the section on fertility and reproduction, some chapters include: “Is There Life After Life? Superfetation in Medical, Historical and Rabbinic Literature,” “Midrash, Miracles, and Motherhood: The Birth of Dinah and the Definition of Maternity,” and “Shared Biological Paternity in Rabbinic Literature: From Goliath to Mitochondrial DNA and the Three-Parent Embryo.” In the section on anatomy and physiology, chapters include: “The Illusive and Elusive Luz Bone,” and “Are Two Heads Really Better Than One? Halakhic Issues Relating to Conjoined Twins and a Two-Headed Person.” Under diseases and therapeutics, we read about “The Use of Anesthesia in Circumcision: A Reevaluation of the Halakhic Sources,” “Lessons from the First Halakhic Analysis of Vaccination,” and “Precedented Times: The Rabbinic Response to COVID-19 and Pandemics Throughout the Ages.” Other sections discuss death and resuscitation, and medicine and rabbinic literature.
Rabbi Dr. Reichman meticulously analyzes the perspective of Jewish sources, from Tanach through the Talmud and Rishonim, to posekim of our own era, on the medical phenomena under discussion. Throughout the book, he compares and contrasts the Jewish sources with medical views expressed in secular literature over the centuries, ranging from Galen and Aristotle in antiquity through the scientific literature of the Middle Ages down to cutting-edge contemporary scientific knowledge.
Marshalling a vast array of sources from multiple disciplines, Rabbi Dr. Reichman demonstrates the importance of the historical dimension not only for medical halachic research, but to better understand the unique relationship of Judaism and medicine throughout the centuries. This work is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the intertwined histories of halachah and medicine.
And Coming Soon…
Nishmat HaBayit: Contemporary Questions on Women’s Reproductive Health Addressed by Yoatzot Halakha
Edited by Rabbanit Chana Henkin
and Rabbi Yehuda Henkin
OU Press and Maggid Books
Originally published in Hebrew and now translated into English by Rabbi Elli Fischer, Nishmat HaBayit consists of sixty-three teshuvot (responsa) on subjects related to pregnancy, birth, pregnancy loss, nursing and contraception. What makes this sefer different from others on these subjects is that each of the teshuvot was written by one of a cadre of yoatzot halachah, or women specially trained in the relevant halachic and scientific material, under the aegis of Midreshet Nishmat, founded and led by Rabbanit Chana Henkin. Each teshuvah was then reviewed by Rabbi Yehuda Henkin, zt”l, and Rabbi Yaakov Warhaftig, shlit”a. In addition, the sefer concludes with five medical appendices by Dr. Deena Zimmerman, herself a yoetzet halachah as well as a medical doctor.
In this volume, distinguished by its clarity of presentation, each teshuvah presents a summary of the practical halachic conclusion, followed by a more detailed look at the classical and contemporary halachic sources on which the decision is based. The Hebrew edition contains the approbations of Rabbi Dov Lior and Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch, zt”l, among others. The teshuvot are written with sensitivity as well as erudition, and the work as a whole provides an excellent guide to these complex halachot. This first-of-its-kind work is an important addition to contemporary halachic literature.