Letters – Spring 2024

A Note of Gratitude
This is a long overdue hakaras hatov letter to Jewish Action for being the impetus for the creation of a program that has changed hundreds of lives—particularly my and my daughter’s lives.

Back in 2014, my daughter Dina Sheva attended a Yachad Shabbaton in Hollywood, Florida. Shortly after, Bayla Sheva Brenner, a former writer in the OU Marketing and Communications Department and Jewish Action contributor, called me and requested an interview with Dina Sheva for a Jewish Action article about Yachad, the OU’s organization for Jewish individuals with special needs. During the interview, I mentioned that Dina Sheva had no social life in South Florida other than Yachad events, and that she didn’t have anyone with whom to learn Torah. She had been learning parashah every week with various high school girls, but when the latest one went to Israel for gap year, I was unable to find a new parashah partner for her. Bayla Sheva enthusiastically said, “I’ll do it!”

At that point, I had been learning with my chavrusa Miriam from Partners in Torah for a few years. When Miriam’s daughter Zahava heard that Bayla Sheva and Dina Sheva were learning My First Parsha Reader over Skype, she decided that expanding this kind of learning program would be a great project for Partners in Torah. Together Bayla Sheva, Zahava and Rabbi Eli Gewirtz, national director, Partners in Torah, established a chavrusa program for Jewish individuals with special needs called Lev L’Lev.

What brings me to finally express my appreciation? I have been learning with Chany, my Lev L’Lev partner with special needs, for eight years now. She just informed me that she will be coming to visit me in Florida! Thank you, Jewish Action, for being the catalyst for the special learning relationships that I, Dina Sheva, and so many others have enjoyed over the past few years.

Judy Waldman
Hollywood, Florida


An Appreciative Reader
In general I’m an easygoing person, but I’ll admit that I’m a snob when it comes to a few areas in life: fonts (I can’t read anything written in Comic Sans), ice cream companies (nothing beats Häagen Dazs), and . . . Jewish magazines. 

And yet I find each edition of Jewish Action to be professionally compiled, thought-provoking, and interesting to read. The writing is of high caliber, and there is always a great selection of authors and topics. I read the articles cover to cover, and they always leave me feeling proud of my Judaism and determined to step up my Jewish practice and commitment. No exaggeration. 

Thank you for what you bring to the community. I’m already checking my mailbox for the next edition.

Sari Kopitnikoff
Author and educator
New Jersey
That Jewish Moment | @thatjewishmoment 


Rav Moshe: A Little-Known Story
Editor’s Note: In Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff’s excellent brief biography of Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank (“Medinat Yisrael: Through a Torah Lens” [summer 2023]), he mentioned that upon Rabbi Frank’s passing, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was offered the position of chief rabbi of Yerushalayim and considered it, but after consulting with “extended family members,” he did not accept the offer. We asked Rabbi Kaganoff to elaborate on this, which he did in the letter below.

It is fortuitous that I know the details of this story from its primary source. I once asked Rabbi Ephraim Greenblatt, a renowned talmid of Rav Moshe, if he knew any details about why Rav Moshe declined the position of chief rabbi. Rav Ephraim told me the following story:

After Rabbi Frank’s passing, Rav Ephraim, then still a student of Rav Moshe’s in Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem, was planning a trip to visit his parents in Yerushalayim for yom tov. (Rav Ephraim had been born in Yerushalayim’s Old Yishuv). Rav Moshe asked him to take care of a mission on his behalf, which he was not to divulge to anyone: to visit Rabbi Michel Feinstein, Rav Moshe’s nephew and a son-in-law of the Brisker Rav, and ask him whether accepting the chief rabbinate position would provide Rav Moshe with practical authority over the rabbinate in Yerushalayim, and whether his authority would be accepted both by rabbanim of both the New Yishuv and the Old Yishuv.

Rav Ephraim sought out Rav Michel, who was living in Bnei Brak. Rav Michel responded that Rav Moshe’s authority would be more respected and adhered to if he remained in New York than if he moved to Eretz Yisrael to accept the chief rabbinate position. 

Although Rav Ephraim told me that he had been sworn to secrecy over his mission, he felt that decades after Rav Moshe’s passing, this condition was no longer in effect and that for the sake of historical record it is worthy that people know.


Gluten-Free Dairy Bread
I recently bought gluten-free bread marked OU-D, made with corn, potato and rice starches. However, the article entitled “The Kashrut of Bread: All You Knead to Know” in Jewish Action’s recent issue (winter 2023) states that bread should not be milchig or fleishig. The article makes it clear that there are some acceptable exceptions, like pizza crust, crackers or English muffins. I am confused since the gluten-free bread is marked OU-D. Can you advise? 

Barbara Bolshon 
White Plains, New York

Rabbi Eli Gersten Responds  
Halachically, bread is only considered lechem if it is made from one of the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats), necessitating the berachah of Hamotzi. Gluten-free bread, while shaped to look like bread, is not halachically considered lechem as it is not made from one of the five grains, and therefore its berachah is Shehakol. Since it is not authentic bread, the halachot of dairy bread do not apply. 

Rabbi Eli Gersten serves as an OU Kosher rabbinic coordinator and recorder of OU policy.


Volunteering for Israel
I read “From Toothbrushes to Tourniquets” (winter 2023), and I loved Shelley and Ariel Serber’s activism in packaging and sending supplies for the IDF, as well as their ability to encourage others to help. My husband and I are traveling again to Pri Gan in southern Israel to do another round of picking tomatoes. We’ve harvested with families from Canada, Mexico, the US, South Africa and, of course, Israel. Not everyone can go to Israel to participate in the volunteering efforts. But like Shelley and her family, those in the Diaspora can find many ways to help. B’yachad nenatzeiach. 

Donna Levin 
Elkins Park, Pennsylvania 

This article was featured in the Spring 2024 issue of Jewish Action.
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