Inside the OU – Winter 2022

Happenings Around the OU

Introducing The Global OU Headquarters

OU Kosher CEO Rabbi Menachem Genack affixing the mezuzah to the entrance of the new OU headquarters at the Keviat Mezuzah Ceremony in September. From left: Rabbi Genack; OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane; OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer; Chairman of the Board and Co-Chair of the Youth Commission Mitchel Aeder; OU Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Rabbi Dr. Josh Joseph; and OU Kosher COO Rabbi Moshe Elefant. Photo: Abbie Sophia Photography

 

Celebrations for the OU’s new office space at 40 Rector Street in downtown Manhattan began in late June with a Keviat Mezuzah Ceremony exclusively for OU Board Members. It concluded in early September with a Chanukat Habayit celebration with lay leadership, Benefactor Circle members, Board Members and community leaders. The Chanukat Habayit included an elegant reception; a tour of the two-floor premises; a performance of the Birkat Habayit tefillah by singers Rivie Schwebel and Yossi Sonnenblick; remarks by OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer, OU Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Rabbi Dr. Josh Joseph, and OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane, as well as a video presentation highlighting the work of each OU department.

Rabbi Dr. Joseph giving a tour of the premises at the Chanukat Habayit. Photo: Ulrich Studios

 

From left: Former OU President Steve Savitsky; Director of Donor Engagement and Board Liaison Hannah Farkas; and OU Senior Vice President Barbara Lehmann Siegel. Photo: Abbie Sophia Photography

 

Teach NYS Co-Chair Cal Nathan (left) and Managing Director of Public Affairs Maury Litwack. Photo: Abbie Sophia Photography

 

Mr. Aeder (left) and OU Chief of Staff Yoni Cohen. Photo: Abbie Sophia Photography

 

Performers Rivie Schwebel (center) and Yossi Sonnenblick (right), accompanied by Shamshi Fried (left), sing the Birkat Habayit tefillah. Photo: Ulrich Studios

 

Empowering Women in Leadership

Above: Women in communal leadership roles networking at the WI’s “Understanding Our Communities” conference in July.

 

Continuing its founding mission to create women’s programming that supports leadership, personal and professional growth, and Torah study, the OU Women’s Initiative (WI) introduced the Foundations of Community Mental Health Support Fellowship in May. Geared to women leaders who serve on the front lines of Jewish communities—from rebbetzins to kallah teachers, Jewish outreach professionals and educators—the seven-week program, hosted on Zoom, provided education and tools to assist participants in caring for the spiritual, social, emotional and intellectual needs of the wide variety of individuals and families with whom they interact daily. This first-of-its-kind fellowship, which received nearly 100 applications for thirty slots, culminated in WI’s two-day, in- person inaugural conference at the end of July, attended by 120 women. Titled “Understanding Our Communities,” and held in Stamford, Connecticut, the conference featured experts who presented on topics relating to contemporary communal challenges, many of which have been exacerbated in the wake of the pandemic and the current social and economic uncertainty.

“There is no greater investment we can make than in the women who act as the first responders to critical issues facing individuals and families in our communities,” noted WI Director Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman. “The OU sees it as our responsibility to help women fill their toolbox with the resources and relationships that will assist them in supporting others with confidence and sensitivity.”

 

Building on the theme of Elul as a time of personal development and closeness to Hashem, in September, OU Torah launched “B’himatzo: Finding Hashem Through Prayer,” a program to enhance and elevate prayer. The program’s site includes a wide array of brand-new, short, digestible content on prayer from leading Torah personalities. On Tzom Gedaliah, a livestream event was held with OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, and Rabbi Moshe Weinberger.

“For us, a successful tefillah would be an experience where we feel like we were really standing in the presence of Hashem and communicating with Him, imbued with a sense that what I’m saying matters,” said Rabbi Hauer.

Explore the offerings at outorah.org/tefillah.

 

Rabbi Hauer Appointed to DHS Faith-Based Security Advisory Council

In September, OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer was appointed by US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the agency’s Faith-Based Security Advisory Council (FBSAC). Rabbi Hauer is one of twenty-five members of the newly appointed FBSAC. The Advisory Council will provide advice to the Secretary on a range of homeland security matters, with a particular focus on protecting houses of worship, increasing access to DHS resources, and preventing and responding to acts of targeted violence.

“I am very grateful to be included in this important group advising Secretary Mayorkas on these critical issues,” said Rabbi Hauer. “The OU advocates for the security of Jewish and other faith-based communities on a daily basis, and this opportunity greatly amplifies our ability to do so.”

 

New NCSY Summer Programs in 2022

Israeli-Anglo teens at Camp NCSY Chai.

NCSY CHAI, a project of NCSY Israel, is an eighteen-day adventure for tenth through twelfth-grade boys. The camp was specifically designed for Israeli Anglo teens, who have few summer camp options. Located in Chispin in the Golan Heights, the inaugural program, held in July, gave campers the opportunity to connect to Torah, Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael in a fun and exciting environment. A parallel NCSY Chai program for girls will be launching for summer 2023. “NCSY Chai made my summer,” said fifteen-year-old Ometz Shmidman of Alon Shevut.

 

CAMP IMPACT, formerly RTC, launched this past summer as a partnership between NCSY Summer and Camp Kaylie. The three-week program for fifth through ninth-grade boys, based in a New Jersey hotel, featured high-caliber sports, amazing trips and top-tier learning opportunities.

Pictured on left: Camp Impact campers with a group of Chassidic boys, who were part of a retreat sharing the New Jersey hotel on Camp Impact’s final Shabbos, Shabbos Nachamu. “I wasn’t sure how the two groups would mesh, but throughout Shabbos, some of the Chassidic men and boys joined us for learning and singing,” said Rabbi Avi Rosalimsky, Director of Camp Impact. “What greater nechamah could we possibly achieve after Tishah B’Av than having Jews from different backgrounds singing to Hashem together?”

 

 

OU Israel Executive Director Rabbi Avi Berman addresses attendees at Torah Yerushalayim. Photo: Chaim Tuito

More than 1,000 people joined the OU Israel Center in October for the fourth annual “Torah Yerushalayim,” a day of inspiration and learning in preparation for Yom Kippur. Held at the Hotel Ramada in Jerusalem, the program, in memory of David and Norma Fund, z”l, featured a blue-ribbon list of thirty rabbinic scholars, educators and Jewish communal leaders.

 

 

 

 

Federal Programs Support Shuls, Schools and the Environment

A new federal grant program and a newly available tax deduction, both advanced in Congress by OU Advocacy, have the potential to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings to shuls, schools and other nonprofits around the country in 2023, while simultaneously lowering energy costs and emissions.

Applications will be available in early 2023 for the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act, a Department of Energy program funded with $50 million to award grants to nonprofits to subsidize the purchase of the new energy system materials. The legislation for this program was crafted by OU Advocacy in partnership with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) and incorporated into the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law by President Biden in November 2021.

This past year, OU Advocacy worked with key Democratic allies—including Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Joe Manchin (D-WV)—to amend an existing federal tax deduction supporting energy efficiency building upgrades (known as 179D deductions) so that it can be used by nonprofit entities when they upgrade their buildings. The law’s revision was included in the “Inflation Reduction Act” enacted in August 2022 and will enable nonprofits to use the deduction by making its value transferable to the contractor designing and installing the building upgrades. If the project yields a 25 percent improvement in energy efficiency, the shul or school will receive a credit worth fifty cents per square foot. The transferable tax credit is available for projects starting in January 2023, and the IRS is releasing guidance presently.

 

PROMOTIONS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

Welcome to…

Yaakov Glasser, David Mitzner Dean of the CJF

. . . Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, returning to the OU as Managing Director of Communal Engagement. In this role, Rabbi Glasser will work with the Executive Vice Presidents to build collaboration between the community-oriented departments, including Community Projects and Partnerships, Synagogue Initiatives, Torah Initiatives, Women’s Initiative, the Center for Communal Research, and the Impact Accelerator, creating a powerful synergy for all our community-focused efforts. Rabbi Glasser, known for his warmth, creativity and passion, has been the Rav of the Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton since 2005. He has extensive experience with the OU, previously serving as Regional Director of New Jersey NCSY and the NCSY International Director of Education. Most recently, Rabbi Glasser served with distinction as the Dean of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future.

. . . Rabbi Ezra Sarna, Director of Halacha Initiatives. Rabbi Sarna aims to solve halachic challenges that face North American Jewry and to support smaller organizations in
their work to enhance halachah observance. He is currently involved in creating new systems, technology and partnerships that will affect various areas of halachah, and his door is always open to new ideas that could benefit mitzvah observance. Prior to joining the OU, he served for four years as a communal rabbi in Dallas, and subsequently for three years as Head of School of a high school in Houston. Originally from Montreal, Rabbi Sarna is a musmach of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore.

. . . Ilana Weinberger, who joins the OU as Assistant Director of Public Relations. Working with Director of Public Relations Jennifer Packer, Ilana is responsible for highlighting the work of the OU and its myriad departments and programs, to inform both the media and the community about the many services and offerings the OU provides to the Jewish community and beyond. Ilana joins the OU with five years of experience working at New York- based public relations agencies primarily focused in the technology realm. She graduated from NYU with a major in applied psychology and minors in media culture and communication, and creative writing. She is currently completing a master’s degree in corporate communication at Baruch College.

. . . Morgane Rothschild, Social Media Coordinator, OU Kosher. Morgane is responsible for planning, implementing, creating and monitoring content for all of OU Kosher’s social media channels to increase awareness of the organization and improve
its marketing strategy. She holds a bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in business and liberal arts from Queens College.

 

Congratulations to…

. . . Liz Offen, who has been promoted to National Director of Strategic Partnerships for Yachad. Liz has served for the past ten years as Regional Director of Yachad’s New England Region and brings more than thirty-five years of experience in nonprofit and government management to the newly created role. As National Director, she will focus
on building new partnerships with foundations and federations, maximizing and expanding financial opportunities for Yachad across all of its programs internationally, while also seeking to develop new and creative projects that support children, teens and adults with disabilities. Liz will remain closely connected to the New England region as its Director of Development and Fundraising, building on her decade-long success.

. . . Jeremy Chernikoff on his promotion to Director of Digital Content. Jeremy helps tell the myriad OU stories to the Jewish world on the OU’s digital platforms, whether via the soon-to-be redesigned OU.org website; a growing network of social media channels; and the OU’s broad range of emails—including the popular Shabbat Shalom weekly email sent out each Thursday (subscribe at ou.org/shabbatshalom!). Jeremy served as Senior Marketing Manager, Marketing and Communications, for the past eight years.

. . . Rabbi Eliyahu Krakowski on his promotion to Executive Editor of OU Press. In this new role, he will run OU Press’s operations in addition to continuing his role as Book Editor. Rabbi Krakowski served as Associate Editor of OU Press for the past nine years.

 

 

. . . Rebecca Kurz on her promotion to Associate General Counsel. In her new role, Rebecca will assist the General Counsel in navigating the OU’s legal and compliance work in the United States and around the world. Rebecca has been working at the OU for five years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Columbia College and her law degree from Fordham University School of Law. Rebecca is thrilled to embark on this new role and to continue working with the OU team.

. . . Sara Liba Schrager on her promotion to Director of Donor Communications. In this role, Sara Liba will be responsible for crafting an ongoing communications strategy for donor engagement, working closely with the Donor Services and Marketing and Communications departments. Prior to joining the OU’s Institutional Advancement department last year as Donor Communications Manager, she had spent over five years in various marketing and administrative roles at Yachad.

 

COMING SOON FROM OU PRESS

Masters of the Word: Traditional Jewish Bible Commentary from the Twelfth Through Fourteenth Centuries (Volume III)
By Rabbi Yonatan Kolatch
OU Press and KTAV Publishing

In Masters of the Word, Rabbi Yonatan Kolatch surveys the biographies, historical contexts, and works of Judaism’s greatest Biblical commentators—including, in this exceptional volume, Rambam (Maimonides), Radak (Rabbi David Kimchi), Ramban (Nachmanides), Rabbi Bachya ben Asher, and Ralbag (Gersonides).

Each chapter in this book begins with the historical context and biography of the figure under discussion, followed by an extensive analysis of the respective author’s works and his outlook and methodology. After this overview of the commentator and his works, Masters of the Word provides numerous examples of each author’s comments on a particular parashah. This volume begins its selections with comments (of Rambam) relating to Parashat Shemot and concludes with selections (from Ralbag) on Parashat Yitro. (Although Rambam did not write a work devoted to Biblical commentary, Rabbi Kolatch correctly notes that Rambam’s rich philosophical and halachic works provide ample material for one seeking to reconstruct Rambam’s methodology and approach to Biblical interpretation.)

Rabbi Kolatch’s depiction of the commentators is both thorough and nuanced, leaving no major theme in each work untouched and providing abundant illustrative examples. In addition, Rabbi Kolatch makes use not only of the commentators’ own works but of the gamut of scholarly contributions on the subjects at hand. We discover the commentators’ views about central questions such as: their approach to peshuto shel mikra and the derashot of Chazal, their attitudes toward rationalist philosophy and kabbalah as tools for Biblical exegesis, and internal textual and thematic issues. This information is presented while taking into account historical contexts—for example, Rabbi Kolatch discusses the presence of inter- religious polemical material in these commentaries, and the various controversies over philosophy that roiled Jewish culture during much of the period under discussion.

If you are interested in parshanut hamikra (Biblical commentary) or the history of Jewish ideas, or you are just looking for an unconventional but highly informative book with which to study the parashah, Masters of the Word: Volume III is highly recommended.

 

Torah United: Teachings on the Weekly Parashah from Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, and the Chassidic Masters—The Wintman Edition By Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider

Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider’s latest work achieves the noble goal of “uniting”—by bringing together in one volume—the resonant teachings of a chorus of distinct voices, thus creating an unexpected Torah symphony. For every parashah, Rabbi Goldscheider presents three essays in which he offers insight into a fundamental concept related to the parashah, based on the writings, teachings and lives of Rav Kook, Rav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik and the masters of the Chassidic tradition.

To give one brief excerpt from this bountiful volume: In Parashat Vayigash, Rabbi Goldscheider cites the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s explanation of areyvut, the responsibility that each Jew has for another, which has its basis in this parashah:

Yehudah’s soliloquy is the moral climax of the entire Yosef story. Near the end, Yehudah says about himself, “your servant took responsibility for [arav] the youth”— Binyamin—“from my father” (Genesis 44:32). This echoes the language of the actual promise he made to Yaakov in Parashat Miketz, “I will take responsibility for him [e’ervenu], you can demand him from me” (Genesis 43:9). The Lubavitcher Rebbe cited these verses as the earliest sources of the foundational principle of arevut, mutual responsibility, formulated in the Talmud as “all Jews are responsible for one another” [kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh]. . . . The Rebbe explained that the Hebrew term “arevut” has a number of senses. . . . Beyond duty, there is the sweetness [arevut] that Jews display to one another. The fact that we are genuinely concerned for the wellbeing and happiness of our neighbor is what permits us to correct them when they are not living up to their religious responsibilities. . . . Arevut also refers to a mixture. Physically the Jewish people consists of separate individuals, but our souls are interconnected, part of a single entity. . . . Yehudah, out of his deep love and loyalty for his youngest brother, personified arevut. It is up to us as a people to live up to his example, by striving to go beyond the formal obligation and demonstrate genuine compassion. We must remember that in our unique spiritual fraternity, every one of us is literally our brother’s keeper.

Inspiring and uplifting, Torah United is a unique work that allows us to appreciate the contributions of the great individuals whose Torah it so magnificently unites.

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