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IN PRINT: The Thriving Orthodox Press

Also in this issue: Rabbi J. David Bleich on Journalism and Halachah The True Power of the Jewish Woman Professionalizing the Jewish Nonprofit World

Our say we’re we’re##1. 1. Our students students say Here’s why. why. Touro College was recently ranked #1 in MONEY Magazine’s 2017 value added all-stars rating. But the number that means the most to us is 841. That’s the number of undergraduate students at the Lander College of Arts and Sciences in Flatbush who experience academic excellence designed to facilitate their professional goals.

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58 TRIBUTE The Custodian Jack Lunzer built the world’s finest collection of rare Hebrew books By David Olivestone COVER STORY In Print: The Thriving Orthodox Press The Burgeoning Chareidi Print Media By Hillel Goldberg Women in Orthodox Media Shoshana Friedman By Bayla Sheva Brenner Rochel Sylvetsky By Toby Klein Greenwald Sivan Rahav-Meir By Toby Klein Greenwald Rechy Frankfurter By Bayla Sheva Brenner Early Orthodox Journalism By Judith Bleich The Jewish Observer: Champion of the Orthodox Right By Zev Eleff Discussing Journalism and Jewish Law with Rabbi J. David Bleich By Binyamin Ehrenkranz

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JEWISH HISTORY The True Power of the Jewish Woman In the struggle against assimilation, women exhibited remarkable strength By Faigy Grunfeld

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PERSONAL HISTORY Friday the Rabbi Got Hijacked By Chaim Feuerman, z”l, as told to Ruchama Feuerman


THE JEWISH WORLD Beyond Management 101: Professionalizing the Jewish Nonprofit World By Rachel Wizenfeld


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LETTERS PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE What If We Actually Had the Chance? By Mark (Moishe) Bane FROM THE DESK OF ALLEN I. FAGIN Affordable Jewish Education— Our Highest Priority

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CHAIRMAN’S MESSAGE By Gerald M. Schreck THE CHEF’S TABLE Chanukah Highlights from Around the World By Norene Gilletz LEGAL-EASE What’s the Truth about … How Much to Open the Torah for Hagbah? By Ari Z. Zivotofsky INSIDE THE OU INSIDE PHILANTHROPY BOOKS Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi: Prophecy in an Age of Uncertainty By Hayyim Angel Reviewed by Rachel Besser Gan Shoshanim, Vol. 3 By Menachem Genack Reviewed by Ezra Schwartz LASTING IMPRESSIONS When Bad Things Bring Out Good People By Barbara Bensoussan

Cover: Andrés Moncayo

Jewish Action seeks to provide a forum for a diversity of legitimate opinions within the spectrum of Orthodox Judaism. Therefore, opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the policy or opinion of the Orthodox Union. Jewish Action is published by the Orthodox Union • 11 Broadway, New York, NY 10004 212.563.4000. Printed Quarterly—Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, plus Special Passover issue. ISSN No. 0447-7049. Subscription: $16.00 per year; Canadian, $20.00; Overseas, $60.00. Periodical's postage paid at New York, NY, and additional offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Jewish Action, 11 Broadway, New York, NY 10004.

Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


LETTERS ON THE PERIPHERY I’m writing in response to your issue on divorce in the Orthodox community (spring 2017). As an FFB (Frum From Birth) woman, who since the time of my divorce has seesawed between full Orthodox observance and forsaking parts of it, it has become clear to me that it’s time I speak up. Time and again I flirt with the Orthodox community. Yet I invariably find myself frustrated, angry and mostly sad. Keeping Shabbat has been a huge struggle for me since my divorce. The meal invitations rarely come. If I wish to be observant, I’m home alone for twenty-five hours—lonely, bored and soon enough, despondent. My parents, who live several hours away, managed to reach an Orthodox rabbi in my community and ask if he’d invite me for Shabbat. His response? “No, I’m sorry. I’m not into kiruv.”  A while back, I had to be on modified bedrest for nearly a year. I received help from Bikur Cholim, an amazing organization, but rarely from members of my religious community. One frum friend did check on me regularly. But it was mostly my non-frum Jewish and Christian friends who showed me love. I imagine I’m not alone in this experience.We identify as a nation of chesed that’s commanded to take extra care of those alone: the convert, the orphan and the widow. Do we know that the commentaries categorize divorcees as widows? Of course, we divorcees don’t have to idly lament our plight. We can treat others with the respect, kindness, generosity, consideration and love everyone wants to experience. This Orthodox community is ours, even at times when we feel on the margins.  Anonymous FROM THE CHILD OF A RABBI I read with fascination “In the Limelight: Children of Rabbis” (by Bayla Sheva Brenner, summer 2017). My father was Rabbi Dr. Joseph Singer, who served as the rabbi of the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center in Brooklyn for fifty years. The sanctuary is dedicated to my parents and there is a street in Brooklyn named after my father. My mom, Rebecca Heller Singer, the daughter of Rabbi Chaim Heller, was a full-time rebbetzin until her death. Although my dad passed away thirteen-and-a-half years ago and my mom thirty-six years ago, I am still referred to as the rabbi’s daughter. The Manhattan Beach Jewish community was one big family and it was a wonderful place in which to grow up. However, being the rabbi’s daughter in a community where you could count the number of religious families on one hand was difficult. I was primed early about whose house I could eat in and what I could be seen doing. I was quiet and shy, and the child of a rabbi is always expected to do more. I attended an elementary school where a core group of girls lived in the same area; [I lived in a different neighborhood], which reinforced my isolation. I wish there would have been support groups in those years for the children of rabbis. Vivian Singer Brooklyn, New York THE POWER OF PRAYER Yasher ko’ach on your issue “Exploring the Power of Prayer” (fall 2017). The issue will hopefully help our community close the gap between the impact our tefillot should have on us and the impact they actually have.  There is, though, an important topic absent from the issue and, notably, 2

JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017


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from Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb’s “The Best Books on Prayer.” His otherwise valuable article omits references to the revolutionary work done by modern scholars of Jewish liturgy. While they write principally for other academics, their insights are highly relevant for anyone who davens; in fact, they often write books and articles specifically for the lay davener. These scholars begin with knowledge of traditional sources and then bring to bear tools that the authors cited by Rabbi Weinreb simply couldn’t have had (because of the time period in which they were writing), were not aware of or, for whatever reason, did not fully employ. The tools I am referring to include knowledge of the Cairo Genizah, the Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeological discoveries, and Jewish and non-Jewish texts from the centuries before churban Bayit Sheini and the early centuries of the Common Era, as well as modern tools of literary analysis. Contemporary scholars use these tools to give us insights into our tefillot that are dramatically different and deeper than that which was previously possible.  There is a long list of books and articles [that would provide] a greatly enhanced understanding of our tefillot and the brilliance of their composition and, ultimately, a closer relationship with our Creator.

Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb Responds I thank Allen Friedman for providing ideas for further reading on the topic of prayer from an academic, scholarly perspective. I chose to limit my list of ten recommended books on prayer to authors who based their writings upon their traditional rabbinic scholarship and experience, who offer authoritative halachic guidance and who provide edifying spiritual inspiration. REBBETZIN’S WORLD What a wonderful article Jewish Action put together on rebbetzins (“The Contemporary Rebbetzin,” by Avigayil Perry, fall 2017). I sent it to my Yeshiva University Rebbetzins’ listserv and received some very appreciative responses. Even some of my children chimed in that it was a realistic presentation of the perks and challenges of the position. Thanks for doing such a great job. Rebbetzin Meira Davis        Hollywood, Florida Coordinator, Personal and Professional Enhancement Program for Rebbetzins Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future

Allen Friedman Teaneck, New Jersey

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n old rabbinic quip recounts the fellow marooned on a desert island who pledges to God to undertake a life exclusively dedicated to servicing the poor, if only he were to be found. When a ship shortly thereafter passes by and finds him, the fellow looks heavenward and remarks, “Forget it God, it’s taken care of.” As Orthodox Jews, we are committed to a life dedicated to religious growth and Torah study. And while many of us express this commitment in our focus on raising children and earning a living, we frequently lament the insufficient time available to increase our Torah study, strengthen our connection to prayer, and assume greater responsibilities in community service and other good works. In our hearts, we pledge that we would do so much more, if only we had the time. Well, for many of us the proverbial ship has arrived, or will do so soon, and the challenge is whether we will honor our pledge. Over the last several years, the “baby boomer” generation has begun to reach retirement age. For many reaching retirement age, the time demands of children and work begin to ease up. For 4

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others, these demands fade entirely. For the first time in decades, we once again have the time to focus on Torah study, avodah (prayer) and chesed (communal activism and individual benevolence). Moreover, today’s generation of retirees is blessed with increased longevity rates coupled with a reasonable expectation of extended years of good health. For many, retirement or semi-retirement has thus been converted from an end-of-life way station into an opportunity for a joyous and meaningful second stage of adulthood. Far more than earlier generations, today’s retirement-age Orthodox community enjoys unprecedented opportunities for new or intensified religious exploration, as well as new avenues for chesed and communal contributions. Community leadership, however, has not yet designed and introduced sufficient context and innovative tools tailored to assist those entering and experiencing this stage of life to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity. That is a mistake, because the religious opportunity is not only personal, it is also communal. There is also a pragmatic reason for the organized community to engage older adults. We confront evergrowing communal needs that must be addressed with finite resources. Older adults, with increased time availability and an abundance of skill, knowledge and experience, are an increasing, rich resource to be involved in addressing these needs. It would be foolish, if not irresponsible, to squander this precious communal resource. TORAH STUDY Torah is being studied in retirement-age “senior kollels” throughout the world. Most attendees, however, have at least some yeshivah

background, and tend to be male. There are also women’s study groups and other learning sessions for older adults, but these opportunities are often informal and are few and far between. Torah study should be intriguing, available and accessible to all of the community’s older adults, regardless of gender, background or degree of academic sophistication. For it to be so, however, a deliberate undertaking must establish Torah programs for older adults throughout North America, and the curriculum, content and teaching methodology employed must be engaging and enjoyable. Torah study should be sweet, even when challenging. By participating in Torah study groups, those reaching retirement age will also be addressing another important need. Though usually not acknowledged, a significant portion of our social interaction occurs at work. In addition, our identity and “sense of self ” is frequently the product of our occupation. Consequently, a reduction or elimination of time spent in a work environment often creates a serious and dangerous vacuum. Joining others in the pursuit of Torah knowledge is perhaps the most sublime manner of filling that social and emotional vacuum. Torah study may also assist in retaining mental alacrity, essential to both religious growth and emotional satisfaction. A key role for the community: Most significant to a meaningful involvement of mature adults in Torah study is the design of Torah content appropriate to those with advanced life experience, wisdom and insight. Educators recognize that Torah taught to a twelve-yearold must be fundamentally different than that taught to a sixteen-year-old or

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to a twenty-one-year-old, even if each possesses the same skills and knowledge base. This is because educational methodology and content must not only be informed by the student’s academic and intellectual status, but also by his emotional and experiential maturity. Unfortunately, adults of all ages tend to be presented with Torah lessons fashioned for the education of an eighteen-year-old. Torah, however, is premised on nuanced and sophisticated ideas in many areas. From complex emotions, such as loyalty, love, regret and repentance, to principles of commerce and a judicial system, Torah study is informed by ideas understood on many different levels. If we hope to engage those of retirement age in expansive Torah study, Torah content and teaching methodologies must be developed which are appropriate for those with the wisdom and insight resulting from extended life experience. PRAYER As we age, we may find it easier to connect to God through prayer. Reduced daily schedule demands allow more time for meaningful contemplation of the words and themes of the siddur (prayer book). Replacing our rushed, thoughtless mumbling with thoughtful, heartfelt poetry not only introduces a sense of authenticity into our prayer experience, but also may reinvigorate all aspects of our spiritual journey. The mindset introduced by aging also provides new opportunities in prayer. We shed the juvenile sense of invincibility and develop an appreciation for our personal limitations and vulnerabilities. We confront the frightening decline of our physical faculties, and silently mourn fading dreams and aspirations. Dissipation of youthful arrogance allows prayer to assume renewed relevance and potency. Since we begin to acknowledge that we are needy and reliant, we find it easier to admit our dependency on God, which is the foundation of prayer. Perhaps it is the recognition of our own mortality that makes room for God. A key role for the community: Encouraging elevated prayer for older adults 6

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requires thoughtful planning and requisite tools. Experimentation is necessary. For example, should minyanim be introduced, at least on occasion, to explore alternatives that might be more engaging to those not running to catch a train or a meeting? Perhaps retirement-age individuals would benefit from davening at a different pace than a typical weekday minyan, or combining prayer with the study of the siddur—its meaning and significance. Are there approaches to the mindset of prayer that are more impactful as one grows older? Would increased singing (and perhaps even dancing) be inspiring or alienating? Would it be helpful to introduce meditative tools or training in personalizing prayer? VOLUNTEERISM One of the most effective ways for any of us to preserve our focus, vigor and sense of purpose is by performing acts of chesed, helping others. Chesed may take many forms and can be pursued in numerous fashions. For example, shuls, schools and kiruv or chesed organizations all thirst for individuals available to assist in administrative tasks or fundraising efforts. Volunteers are always needed to learn Torah telephonically with those who have weaker Torah backgrounds (, to provide business mentoring to early-stage entrepreneurs (, to visit the ill or homebound, or to deliver food to the needy. Chesed may also be performed privately, on one’s own. People in need surround us. Down the road you may find a mother struggling with a special needs child, or a family overwhelmed by an illness, or an individual suffering from bereavement or loneliness. Occasionally an offer to take care of grocery shopping may be desperately needed, or to pick up the kids from the home of a friend or from a Sunday morning Little League game. And for all, a sympathetic smile and an encouraging word are more than welcome. A keen observer recently noted that more than we lack leaders with the wisdom to provide advice, we lack friends with the time to listen. In addition to chesed opportunities available to us all, older adults are

uniquely qualified for certain roles generally inappropriate for others. Those reaching retirement age and beyond often have accumulated decades of skill, knowledge and wisdom. Many also have greater insight into core life experiences, such as love, jealousy, pain and alienation. Possessing these treasures, and having newly available time, older adults can provide non-professional services utilizing their expertise. For example, retired businesspersons and accountants could provide financial and budgeting guidance to people whose deceased spouse had handled all financial issues. Retired medical professionals could help explain often unfamiliar and confusing medical options presented by doctors to those confronting unfamiliar illnesses. Retired teachers and others could offer free or nominally priced tutoring for children whose families would otherwise be unable to afford the needed help. And the list goes on. A key role for the community: The community should create the context and provide guidance for older adults to employ their skills and time to assist others. Programs utilizing differing fields of expertise should be introduced to gather and screen potential volunteers who are prepared to use their years of experience to help others. Individuals should be trained to assist retirees in identifying meaningful communal roles they can play, considering their personalities, interests and background. And retirement-age volunteers should be invited to meetings and social events, perhaps evolving into a fraternity of older adults, all engaged in meaningful and satisfying volunteerism. I greatly appreciate the thoughts and suggestions emailed to me with regard to my last essay, discussing measuring spirituality. I encourage suggestions and reactions to the proposals set forth in this essay as well. I can be reached at Mark (Moishe) Bane is president of the OU and a senior partner and chairman of the Business Restructuring Department at the international law firm, Ropes & Gray LLP.

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he education of our children has always been the bedrock of our existence. At the dawn of our birth as a people, God said about the Patriarch Abraham: “I have shown him affection because he instructs his children and his posterity to keep the way of God, to do what is right and just . . .” (Genesis 18:19). Abraham was chosen to be the father of the Chosen People because he understood that for God’s presence to be known in the world, it was the obligation of parents to educate their children with the message of God, and to set them forth on the path of righteousness. Throughout the millennia, Jewish parents have never shirked that responsibility; generation after generation, they have sacrificed and struggled to fulfill that sacred responsibility of passing on Torah and Mesorah to their children and grandchildren. The essence of our continuity lies in chinuch. Today, we are blessed with the freedom to teach our tradition publicly, and we can be proud of the many outstanding educational Allen I. Fagin is the executive vice president of the OU.


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institutions that our community has established, which educate thousands of children each day to “keep the way of God, to do what is right and just.” We can be equally proud that the total enrollment in day schools and yeshivot in the United States continues to expand— with over 260,000 students enrolled in K-12 classes alone. At the same time, we are equally cognizant of the profound challenge faced by our parents: the struggle to finance the outstanding Jewish and secular studies education our children receive. With the expenses of an Orthodox lifestyle at an all-time high already, the added responsibility of soaring tuition costs is a matter of the utmost, urgent communal concern. The gravity of the problem was further documented by the newly released Nishma Research Profile of American Modern Orthodox Jews. The survey covers many significant issues within the Orthodox community, and not surprisingly, documents a multiplicity of positions on a wide range of matters and questions that continue to occupy our collective thinking. While this is neither the place to discuss the survey’s methodology nor debate its underlying assumptions, it does make abundantly clear the extraordinary unanimity regarding the high costs of Jewish education. When asked to choose what they perceive to be the problems of greatest concern facing our community, an overwhelming 97 percent of respondents agreed that the cost of Jewish schooling is the number-one problem. This particular issue united respondents despite their differences of opinion on other matters, and testifies to the prominence of the “tuition crisis” on the contemporary Orthodox agenda.

___________________________ Living an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle means balancing a budget that includes many expenses unknown or irrelevant to most Americans. Basics like meat and poultry cost more for the kosher consumer. Orthodox Jewish families are, on average, far larger than nonOrthodox families, adding to the costs of food, clothing and housing. The need to live in a neighborhood within walking distance of a shul adds to the already burdensome cost of housing. The costs of ritual observance—a sukkah, arba minim, matzah, tefillin, mezuzot, to name just a few—add to the expense of Orthodox Jewish life. Factor in the costs of synagogue membership, summer camp and programing, gapyear programs, support for mikvaot and other communal infrastructure, and the constant requests for assistance from yeshivot, kollelim and chesed organizations of all types (here, and in Israel)—the demands are endless, and virtually all are important and necessary components of Orthodox life. But these expenses pale in comparison to the most expensive component of our lifestyle: the cost of Jewish education. Estimates put the average cost of Jewish day school at $15,000 to $30,000 per child, per year. And that means that the average Centrist Orthodox family with 4.1 children (per the Pew Research Center) will pay $1 million in tuition costs—or more—before their children ever get to college, and these costs will be paid in after-tax dollars. Such costs are crippling, and the cascading consequences can neither be underestimated nor overlooked. We know, for example, that many parents limit the size of their families based on anticipated tuition costs. Others have opted



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FAST FACTS Working in tandem with federal and state policymakers, the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center helped secure $515 million in government funding for Jewish schools, shuls and other nonpublic entities across the United States.


OU Advocacy helped secure during 5777 (2016-17) $515 MILLION


$25 MILLION for security at schools, shuls and other nonprofit institutions


$309.6 MILLION for Jewish and other nonpublic schools


$11.5 MILLION for Jewish schools; $40 MILLION for nonpublic schools


for nonpublic schools and other nonprofit institutions*


$19.2 MILLION for Jewish schools*


for nonpublic schools and other nonprofit institutions

*Final amount not available at time of printing


to remove their children from yeshivot and send them to public schools—there is at least anecdotal evidence that this trend is accelerating. And then there are the very real, but often overlooked consequences on shalom bayit—twowage earner parents left with barely enough time or energy for each other or for their children. And the inevitable tensions of determining what to forgo in order to pay the monthly tuition bill. Are we, we must ask, pricing ourselves out of the very Jewish education that has sustained us for millennia? According to the Avi Chai Foundation’s Jewish Day School Census, student enrollment in Jewish day schools is growing at an extraordinary rate. That is a testament to our community’s fidelity, devotion and sacrifice, but by no means does it exempt us from doing our utmost to ensure the sustainability of the

Jewish education system for the future. ___________________________ At the OU, we believe that the solution to tuition affordability is a three-pronged approach. First, each of our institutions must do all they can to operate efficiently and minimize expenses. We salute the many professionals and lay volunteers who spend countless hours in dedicated service to our yeshivot and day schools, in an effort to pare expenses whenever possible. Second, private philanthropy must continue to be a mainstay of our yeshivot and day schools. Such philanthropy is an obligation of the total community, not just the parent body. But in the final analysis, cost cutting and private philanthropy alone cannot guarantee the fiscal sustainability of our institutions, or lower the cost of tuition—which must be our ultimate goal.

Thus thirdly, the key to a sustainable future lies in our collective ability to persuade our state and local government instrumentalities to do their fair share in supporting the education of our children. The simple fact is that most public education systems are supported by property tax dollars. We pay these taxes, and in the process support the public school system of the area in which we live. However, little of these tax dollars return to yeshivot or day schools. We are not asking for support of the Jewish component of our education, but rather constitutionally acceptable reimbursements or payments to which every child is entitled, regardless of religion or where they attend school. Here is a vivid example of the inequity in the distribution of government funding to nonpublic education. In the State of New York, roughly 16 percent of school-age children attend nonpublic schools. These 16 percent of New York children receive about 1 percent of government education funds. At the same time, New York State spends approximately $20,000 to educate each child who attends public school. In New York State alone, there are 140,000 school children attending yeshivot and day schools. That means that we are saving New York State over $2.8 billion per year by not educating our children in public schools. Shouldn't some of those savings be returned to our schools? We believe the answer is clearly yes—and so the OU is working to correct this inequality and guarantee our children the same educational resources that their public school peers receive. That is why the OU Advocacy Center founded Teach NYS in 2013. Since then, through the efforts of our talented staff, we have seen the beginnings of long-overdue changes. We have built a network of schools and parent advocates, hired top lobbyists and invested resources to advance legislation that maximizes the monetary benefits our schools can receive. Our initial efforts focused on New York State, where yeshivah and day school students represent more than half of the nation’s yeshivah/ day school population. Since then we have expanded our efforts to New Jersey, Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin introducing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Teach NYS advocacy mission last spring.

Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland and California which, together with New York, include almost 90 percent of the total number of yeshivah and day school students in the country. Each of these states now has a “Teach” organization; collectively they constitute our Teach Advocacy Network. So far, the Teach Advocacy Network, working in tandem with the Catholic community and other nonpublic school advocacy groups, has made a huge difference (see the chart on the following page). The parents, students and memberschools involved in Teach NYS have more than doubled state funding for Jewish schools in New York over the past several years. And, for the first time, our schools will begin receiving reimbursement for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. Before Teach NYS was founded, nonpublic schools received approximately $110 million from New York State. With Teach NYS at work, that number

ATTORNEY POSITION We are looking for a highly skilled, results-oriented attorney to join our growing legal team as an Associate General Counsel in Lakewood, NJ. The qualified individual should have significant corporate legal experience at a regionally (or nationally) recognized law firm or inhouse corporate legal department. Responsibilities will include: providing legal advice and counsel to executives and management regarding complex transactions, litigations and regulatory and compliance matters, tax and accounting issues; and preparing contracts and legal memoranda. The individual should have excellent presentation and writing skills, the ability to quickly master complex legal and regulatory issues, and to work effectively across business functions in a matrixed organization.

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has increased to $345 million. Our Teach networks in Florida, Pennsylvania, California and New Jersey have also secured millions of dollars for security in Jewish schools. Through our hands-on “maximization” meetings, we connect with a wide range of schools and assist them in making certain that they are aware of, and seek, all government funding opportunities. We are committed to working with every Jewish community to make day schools more affordable through government advocacy. The needle is moving, but we need to move it faster and more sharply. We will not be satisfied to maintain tuition at current levels. Our goal is to obtain sufficient government funding so that we roll back the current cost of Jewish education. We will continue to fight until this goal has been reached. However, we cannot do this alone. Politicians take our community’s needs seriously only if we take political advocacy seriously. Schools need to ensure their community members vote in every election. Community members need to make their voices heard by regularly e-mailing and calling their legislators and bringing their legislators to schools and community events. Our advocacy work has shown that when the Jewish community speaks about tuition with a loud, collective voice, legislators listen. From its very inception, the Teach Advocacy Network has united parents and schools across the spectrum of our communities. While we may disagree on many issues, we unanimously agree that Jewish education is too expensive, and that we must do all that we can to change that. That unity of mission has enabled us to do what we do. We hope that our efforts will increase, and be joined by many others, to have the most profound impact possible. ___________________________ Jewish education has always been, and will always be, a mainstay of our community, and the key to our survival. As Zalman Shazar (whose words until recently appeared on the 200-shekel bill) so beautifully articulated about Klal Yisrael: . . . the nation that recognized the mandate of “veshinantam levanecha—And you shall teach them to your children,” since its original ascent onto the stage of history. This nation knew as well, even in its dark times, to safeguard the institution of obligatory education for all its children. Already in the days of Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetach . . . it made sure to place educators in every city and village, in every region and every province, and stipulated that any city that does not have a teacher residing in it, does not have the status of a city . . . We have always made sure that every child receives the Jewish education he or she deserves, and now we must ensure that parents can fulfill their obligation of “veshinantam levanecha—And you shall teach them to your children,” without the current degree of financial and emotional burden. We will continue to do what we can to help, and we ask the entire community to join in our efforts, to ensure “ki lo tishachach mipi zaro,” “that [the Torah] will never be forgotten from the mouths of their offspring” (Deuteronomy 31:21).

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By Gerald M. Schreck


any of you are probably aware of the fact that when Jewish newspapers came about in the 1800s, there was rabbinic opposition to the “new media.” Some rabbis saw newspapers as a waste of precious time. Others had a different view, and foresaw the potential of print media to inform, educate and influence. Since those days, Orthodox print media have formed a robust and growing mini-industry of their own. Visit any supermarket or grocery store located within a thriving Orthodox community and you’ll find an impressive array of thick newspapers and glossy magazines lining the shelves, all geared for the frum home. In contemporary society, what purpose do Orthodox print media serve? That’s a question that came up repeatedly as we worked on our cover story. Some would say that quality Orthodox publications help keep the community informed without compromising religious standards; others point to the value of having a forum in which to raise serious and sometimes pressing Gerald M. Schreck is chairman of the Jewish Action Committee and vice chairman of the OU Board of Governors.


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societal concerns such as abuse, addiction and the various issues confronting Orthodoxy; still others feel that such publications provide an ideal platform for furthering Torah views and ideas on contemporary issues. But in addition to all of the important goals listed above, Orthodox media should have an entirely different focus as well. It should be obvious that we cannot rely on the secular media to accurately depict the complexity and diversity of contemporary Orthodox life. While it’s unfair to expect an “outsider” to truly get it, it seems that some secular publications fail to engage in objective, honest reporting when it comes to portraying Orthodox life. Thus, frum media have an opportunity—or maybe even an obligation—to highlight the many wonderful positive aspects of religious life. Why is it, for example, that no reporter cares to cover the full-time working Orthodox mother of six who runs several gemachs out of her garage in her “spare time”? Why is she deemed un-newsworthy? Why is it that the countless “Bikur Cholim” rooms in various hospitals throughout the tristate area that are fully stocked with an array of delicacies for kosher visitors— including Shabbos meals of chulent and kugel—don’t warrant coverage? We need to open a window into the beautiful world that is Orthodox Judaism; to tell about the ongoing tzedakah and gemilus chasadim, the altruism and selflessness that form the bedrock of so many Orthodox communities around this country. We need to remind the broader Jewish world and we even need to remind ourselves what our community is truly about: faith, strength, ahavas Yisrael, resilience and integrity. In this very issue, in fact, we describe how the Atlanta Orthodox community spearheaded the effort to feed, house and welcome roughly 1,500 Jewish Floridians who fled Hurricane Irma. Similarly, in Houston, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, when kosher food was scarce, a number of mostly

Orthodox organziations based in Dallas banded together to prepare 2,000 Shabbos meals for the residents of Houston. Subsequently, Seasons Kosher grocery stores donated items and partnered

Thus, frum media have an opportunity—or maybe even an obligation—to highlight the many wonderful positive aspects of religious life. with the OU, Amudim and Achiezer to send a convoy of trucks to Houston to deliver much-needed supplies. And, in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the OU contributed funds to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s relief fund to assist in resolving Puerto Rico’s water and utility crises. Yes, Orthodox media can educate, inform, and every so often, even entertain. But our primary mission should be to highlight the extraordinary aspects of religious life, to tell the stories of those who are making a kiddush Hashem, to inspire and uplift our readers and make them proud to be a part of such an extraordinary klal.

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The Custodian Jack Lunzer built the world’s finest collection of rare Hebrew books in private hands By David Olivestone


n his four decades at Sotheby’s, the renowned auction house, David Redden presided over many memorable sales.1 Among the most notable, he lists the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Duchess of Windsor’s jewels, a lunar lander, and a copy of the Magna Carta. But the one that touched him the most was the sale of an extraordinary collection of rare Hebrew printed books, assembled by Jack Lunzer, z“l, whose first yahrtzeit will be observed in Kislev of this year. Known as the Valmadonna Trust Library, the collection consisted of over 13,000 printed books and manuscripts, and is considered the twentieth century’s greatest and finest collection of Judaica in private hands. Among its principal treasures were a Chumash from 1189, the only surviving Hebrew manuscript written in England before the expulsion of the Jews in 1290; a complete Babylonian Talmud, produced by the renowned early sixteenth-century Christian printer Daniel Bomberg; and more than one-third of all known Hebrew incunabula (i.e., the earliest printed books, dating from the last quarter of the fifteenth century).2

Sotheby’s exhibited the library in a magnificent floor-to-ceiling display. Photos courtesy of Sotheby’s

David Olivestone, former senior communications officer of the Orthodox Union, was previously on the staff of the British Library and of the Encyclopaedia Judaica. He now lives in Jerusalem.

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JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

Crowds lined up around the Sotheby’s building in Manhattan to see the treasures of the Valmadonna Trust Library.


Known as the Valmadonna Trust Library, the collection consisted of over 13,000 printed books and manuscripts, and is considered the twentieth century’s greatest and finest collection of Judaica in private hands.

Lunzer, who died last year aged ninety-two, was born in Antwerp but as a young man spent much time in Italy, where his wife Ruth hailed from. He named his library after the town of Valmadonna in Tuscany, of which he and Ruth were very fond.3 He put the library into the trust for the benefit of his family. Jack and Ruth lived in London, where he built up a major business in industrial diamonds, securing monopolies in several West African countries.4 As he traveled the world on business, he began to seek out and acquire rare Hebrew books wherever they could be found. “He always loved beautiful things,” says Margaret Rothem, the eldest of the Lunzers’ five daughters. “I remember when he first began to teach me to daven, he pulled out a lovely calligraphed piece of artwork inscribed with ‘Da lifnei mi atah omed’ (‘Be aware of before Whom it is that you are standing’).” Jack Lunzer’s younger sister Joan Lau-Lavie concurs. “Jack was born in the wrong generation,” she says. “He was an aesthete; he loved beauty of form, beautiful books, beautiful paper, beautiful pens.”

The books themselves are things of beauty. As they arrived from dealers and auction houses around the world, each volume was checked and then sent out to be elegantly rebound in rich and colorful leather. Besides the title, the spines also identify the date and place of printing, reflecting the spread of the Hebrew press around the globe in Italy, Holland, England, Greece, Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, India and China. After Ruth passed away in 1978, it was the library that kept Lunzer going. It became his passion, and filled the house. Some volumes were nestled behind wire-mesh and glass in custom-built bookcases; others were crammed three-deep in nooks and crannies. You would find shelf upon shelf of Chumashim, Mikra’ot Gedolot, the Talmud and its commentaries, and rabbinic literature, as well as machzorim, haggadot and all types of Jewish liturgy according to various rites. Many of these volumes were exceedingly rare, or perhaps the only extant copy of a particular printing. Margaret told her husband, when she was pregnant with one of their

Jack Lunzer surveys the Sotheby’s display of his library with obvious delight.


children, “If it’s a boy, we should name him Daniel Bomberg, because then my father will dote on him.” Lunzer enjoyed, and always wanted to share, the finer things in life. For many years, there was a minyan in his home on Friday nights in a room set aside as a synagogue. After davening, those in attendance were offered single-malt whisky served in crystal glasses on a silver tray, in order to fortify them against the vagaries of the dismal English weather on their way home. The Lunzer home and the library were always open to visiting scholars and librarians. Dr. Jordan Penkower, professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University, spent two days at the house examining variant readings in early printed editions of the Mikra’ot Gedolot. “Jack was extremely generous in dealing with scholars,” Penkower recalls. “He made everything available, gave me carte blanche to photocopy whatever I needed, and even invited me to stay for dinner.”

Pauline Malkiel was Lunzer’s librarian for thirty-five years, working side by side with him to search out and acquire books that came on the market and to catalog and evaluate every acquisition, as well as preparing exhibits. She was in awe of the way he was able to manage his family, business, library and religious lives all at once, and describes

the scene in the house on any given Sunday morning: There might be two Chassidic book dealers in one room, an African lady visitor in another . . . a rabbi on a charitable mission in another, the gardener waiting for instructions outside, two waitresses coming to discuss breakfast arrangements for the overnight

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Shavuot study, the pedicurist and the electrician, while family members would be dropping in to see their father, grandfather or uncle. . . . Jack Lunzer was unperturbed by the transitions between all these people. . . . Sometimes he would carry on two conversations on two phones, and once I actually heard him speak in seven languages in the course of one evening.5  Lunzer was essentially self-taught, yet if a volume’s title page were damaged or missing, he could very often identify the printer, and sometimes even the edition, by examining the typeface. Much of his and Pauline Malkiel’s time and energy were spent on obtaining copies of missing pages from libraries that held other copies. If a book came on the market that was in superior condition to Valmadonna’s own copy, they would purchase it and send the inferior copy off to auction. There was one prize, however, that eluded Jack Lunzer for nearly twenty-five years. In 1956, he discovered that a complete set of the Babylonian Talmud, printed by Daniel Bomberg in nine volumes between 1519 and 1523, and on which all subsequent printings of Talmud tractates are modeled, was in the collection of Westminster Abbey, having lain there untouched for several centuries.6 Once he had been granted permission to examine it and found it to be in magnificent condition (if a bit dusty), Lunzer was determined to own it. Over the years, he made the Abbey many offers to purchase it and was always rebuffed. But in 1980, he seized the chance to buy a 900-year-old copy of the Abbey’s charter. The story goes that when he approached the Abbey authorities with the charter in hand, he was greeted with “We’ve been expecting you, Mr. Lunzer.” A deal was struck, and the Westminster Talmud became the centerpiece of the Valmadonna Trust Library.7 As Lunzer grew older, it became clear that a decision had to be made as to the library’s eventual disposition. One of his singular achievements was that he had managed to assemble a copy of nearly every book printed in each of scores of centers of Hebrew printing around the world. No one wanted to see this life’s work wasted by selling off the library piecemeal, so in 2009 Sotheby’s was asked to try to arrange a private sale of the entire library to a suitable institution, such as the Library of Congress.8 Sotheby’s David Redden knew Lunzer well, as Lunzer had bought and sold Judaica there for many years. Once Redden had arranged for the books to be packed and shipped to New York for display, he realized that “ . . . the house would look really naked, and it would be mournful and dispiriting for Jack. So we did something that turned out to be absolutely brilliant. We took photographs of each shelf and set them in the exact spots where the books had been. The next day, one of Jack’s daughters came into the house and said, ‘Daddy, I thought they had taken the books . . . .’” Sotheby’s set out all 13,000 volumes in a magnificent floor-to-ceiling display filling its entire eighteen-foothigh tenth floor, with many of the major works and

bibliographic highlights in glass cases. The books were arranged by place of printing, some showing only the spine, others open. The effect was breathtaking, even for Pauline Malkiel: We were astonished to see how many books and manuscripts we had actually collected over the years, as we were used to seeing them crammed into shelves. . . . At Sotheby’s, we suddenly saw them in all their glory . . . with pages and bindings specially chosen and tastefully arranged on the shelves and in long rows of display cases with one gallery set aside for incunabula, another for manuscripts, another for a miscellany of specialties (colored paper and vellum) and an alcove for the Westminster Talmud.9 Redden was unprepared for the enormous interest the exhibition would create, with thousands of visitors crowding the gallery on each of the ten days it was open (it was closed on Shabbat). “It completely and utterly amazed us,” he said. In the street outside the building, scholars lined up with Chassidim, bused-in groups of yeshivah students, and the general, mostly Jewish, public, for the privilege of viewing these treasures. Inside the gallery, Jack Lunzer basked in all the attention. Says Redden, “He was treated like a rock star. He got so much satisfaction out of it, and it validated what he had been trying to achieve.”10 But no one purchaser could be found, as the reputed price tag of around $40 million was beyond what any institution could afford to pay. The library languished in Sotheby’s vaults for several years until Redden suggested auctioning off twelve of the most valuable items, a clever marketing move that cut the value of the remaining bulk of the library in half. The sale of the twelve items, held on December 22, 2016, set the record for the most valuable Judaica auction ever held, with the Westminster Talmud topping the list at $9.3 million.11 Then, earlier this year, the remaining library was jointly purchased by the National Library of Israel and noted collectors Dr. David and Jemima Jeselsohn for an undisclosed sum.12

During all the years that he built up the library, Jack Lunzer referred to himself only as the “custodian,” which reflected far more than just the library’s legal status. He told Sotheby’s that just “to hold and read these treasures is a humbling experience for which I offer grateful thanksgiving to God for having granted me this privilege. It’s been terrific—I’ve had such fun.” Some years before he died, he instructed his daughter Margaret that he didn’t want any grandiose inscriptions on his matzeivah (gravestone) except the words “Ish Sefer” (a man of the book). And that is what he was. Notes 1. In addition to David Redden, who retired as vice chairman of Sotheby’s in 2016, I wish to thank David Wachtel, formerly senior consultant for Judaica at Sotheby’s, and Sharon Mintz, currently Sotheby’s senior consultant for Judaica, all of whom generously gave me of their time and knowledge. I am grateful to Sharon Mintz for providing me with Sotheby’s photographs of the Valmadonna Trust Library exhibition. I also thank the various members of the Lunzer family, as well as Pauline Malkiel, who shared with me their fascinating insights, treasured memories and photographs. 2. See Treasures of the Valmadonna Trust Library: a catalogue of 15thcentury books and five centuries of deluxe Hebrew printing, David Sclar, ed., (London, 2011), available as a PDF download at Treasures_of_the_Valmadonna_ Trust_Library_a_catalogue_of_15thcentury_books_and_five_centuries_ of_deluxe_Hebrew_printing. See also The Writing on the Wall: A Catalogue of Judaica Broadsides from the Valmadonna Trust Library, Sharon Liberman Mintz, Shaul Seidler-Feller, David Wachtel, eds. (2015). 3. According to some accounts, Lunzer purchased the deed to the town, thereby becoming the Count of Valmadonna.

4. He was appointed as the honorary consul of the Republic of Guinea, and sometimes received African diplomats in his home. 5. twenty-five-years-at-valmadonnatrust.html 6. There are some scholars who believe that this is the copy of the Talmud ordered by King Henry VIII from Daniel Bomberg when he was trying to find a way to divorce Catherine of Aragon in order to be able to marry Anne Boleyn. The king had been told that Jewish law could provide him with a solution. However, by the time the Talmud arrived in England, he had already found another way out and so the Talmud was probably never even opened. 7. See ZuRdY64 for a charming video of Jack Lunzer relating in detail how he obtained the Westminster Talmud. 8. Redden, Wachtel, Mintz and Lunzer himself talk at length about the library in this Sotheby’s auction preview video: videos/2011/04/ValmadonnaTrust-Library.html. 9. valmarep.html 10. One of David Redden’s favorite moments was when a group of boys sang for Jack Lunzer as Lunzer fondly conducted them: watch?v=XKOV9jnE3sk. 11. See watch?v=5wNh8yqa09k for a video of the auction. 12. In November 2017, much to the dismay of Pauline Malkiel, the Kestenbaum auction house held a sale of some 200 items from the Valmadonna Trust Library, with the result that the collection will no longer be kept as one. This eventuality would no doubt also have greatly distressed Jack Lunzer himself.

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IN PRINT: The Thriving Orthodox Press


he explosion in English-language Orthodox print media is a wonderful development, especially for those of us who recall the days when Orthodox print publications were few and far between. These days there’s a plethora of newspapers—(even a daily!)—as well as a variety of glossy, graphically appealing magazines (and even classy, high-style fashion magazines geared for the frum, modestly dressed woman.) In most heavily Orthodox neighborhoods around the country, one can also find an assortment of local freebies—weeklies such as The Five Towns Jewish Times, The Flatbush Jewish Journal, The Jewish Link of New Jersey or The Jewish Home LA. Some more Modern Orthodox in orientation, others more right leaning, these popular weeklies with a “small town” appeal tend to reflect the unique flavor of their particular community. Serving as a unifying force, many of these publications have readers spanning the Orthodox spectrum, invariably exposing them to Torah ideologies and hashkafot that may be different than their own. In the Orthodox world, print is not going away so quickly. Publications—from national magazines to local weeklies—irrespective of their ideological slant, are clearly thriving, indicative not only of a growing Orthodox press, but also of the dynamism and vitality of contemporary Orthodox life. 

From the top: The Five Towns Jewish Times; The Jewish Press; The Jewish Home; The Jewish Link and The Queens Jewish Link.

Background Image: Yehoshua Halevi Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


A Courtesy of Shoshana Friedman

The Burgeoning


Rabbi Hillel Goldberg is editor and publisher of the Intermountain Jewish News. He is also a contributing editor of Jewish Action.


JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

quarter of a century ago, if one wanted to get an inside look into the more traditional circles of the Orthodox community, one would have to rely on hearsay or a very occasional news story in a secular daily or weekly Jewish newspaper. That kind of story aroused a mixture of pride, surprise and validation, precisely for its rarity. Even then, the chances of such a story capturing the nuances, or even being factually correct, were iffy. No more. In fact, if one were to read every English-language Chareidi Orthodox publication today, one would have little time for anything else. Hundreds of pages are published weekly. I am not even counting the occasional, high-quality kashrut newsletters and yeshivah publications. It all boils down to this: Given the halachic aversion to television and other forms of mass communication, the last bastion of readership for financially healthy, community-validated print journalism today is the Orthodox Jewish community. To all appearances, the Chareidi publications seem to be on solid financial footing. While print journalism appears to be struggling for its survival, the Chareidi Orthodox Jewish press is flourishing. At first glance, these Chareidi publications might seem to be overwhelmingly similar. In fact, they have marked differences, testifying to the reality of diverse subsets within the Chareidi Orthodox community. In fact, to speak of a single Chareidi community is very much an outsider’s perspective, given the marked internal differences. Each Chareidi subset has its own publication, though to be sure, there is overlap. A brief run-down of the major Chareidi publications, highlighting both similarities and differences:  Yated Ne’eman, a newspaper of upwards of 200 pages weekly, founded in 1987, is primarily the voice of the so-called Litvish, Lakewood yeshivah-type community—though, to be sure, the news pages embrace Chassidim and Sephardim as well. Yated hosts a chinuch forum; a shidduch forum; a psychologist’s forum; a forum for halachic queries; weekly essays on the parashah; profiles of great rabbinic eminences, living and dead; much general national and world news; columnists from the secular press; a robust letters page, including personal comments that have nothing to do with what has been published; photographs of rabbinic eminences and noteworthy events, such as weddings; and a variety of related

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Our medical school has an academic calendar respectful of Jewish observance as well as glatt kosher dining facilities, an on-site synagogue, a campus eruv and regular shiurim. New York Medical College is taking the lead with its partner hospitals in founding and promoting Shomer Shabbos residency training positions. These slots allow accommodation of Jewish observance with the understanding that primacy is always given to the needs of our patients. At Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, Shomer Shabbos residency positions are offered in Internal Medicine, Pathology, Pediatrics*, Psychiatry and Radiology. Located in Westchester County, near Monsey, New Square, New Rochelle, Riverdale, White Plains and Queens. At St. Joseph’s Hospital Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, Shomer Shabbos residency positions are offered in Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. Located near the northern New Jersey communities of Clifton, Englewood, Fair Lawn, Passaic and Teaneck. *All of these residency positions are offered via the Shomer Shabbos option of the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) except pediatrics at Westchester Medical Center which is a NRMP program that accommodates Shomer Shabbos trainees.


Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


features, long and short, as well as a small magazine with a children’s section. Its community news from around the country, but especially from Lakewood, New Jersey and similar communities, is detailed and carefully researched. Yated projects a definite point of view. For example, if it feels that left edges of the Orthodox Jewish community have left the fold, Yated will bluntly scrutinize and criticize the development. The English-language Hamodia, established in 1998, is both a small daily newspaper—the only English-language Orthodox daily—and a much larger weekly newspaper. The weekly comes with many sections: a magazine, hard news, community news, features and opinions, rigorous reportage on developments in health and a children’s section. Hamodia seeks to represent the entire spectrum of the Orthodox Jewish community—Litvish, Chassidic and Sephardi—and to identify the events and perspectives in Orthodoxy that unify it. The publication strives for solidarity and to provide “newsworthy and ethical reading material” to ensure that readers are not exposed to material deemed inappropriate. Hamodia presents various events from within the Modern Orthodox Jewish community as well. Hamodia’s hard news section is highly professional. Its magazine contains a fascinating range of features and often focuses on Orthodox Jewish artists and relatively unknown communities and Orthodox pioneers, past and present. Hamodia also publishes a high-gloss weekly magazine, Binah, written by and for women. The English-language version of Mishpacha, which first appeared in 2004, is a full-color weekly magazine with features, profiles, influential columnists, and Jewish and general news. The writing is first-rate. Often, to read Mishpacha is not only an educational experience but a literary one. What distinguishes Mishpacha is its agenda to tackle sensitive issues that, a quarter of a century ago, were mostly


Photo: Yehoshua Halevi

On Reading Newspapers Translation and text by Eliyahu Krakowski For as long as there has been Jewish media, it has had its rabbinic opponents. The Chofetz Chaim, for example, wrote about the evils of reading the newspaper: In our great sins, the evil inclination has overpowered us and seeks ways to trap us with the sin of bitul Torah . . . for example, reading newspapers, which has become prevalent in our days . . . How can those who read them not waste at least an hour a day on this? Then one becomes known as someone who knows about the news of the world, and others ask him about what is happening. He then reports everything to them in detail, and thus wastes even more time on this. Then there are many who are not satisfied with reading one newspaper, but read three or four papers, from each category, and waste multiple hours a day. Over the course of a year, this adds up to hundreds of hours which one occupies with meaningless nonsense, which gains nothing for the body or soul. This is all only regarding the bitul Torah aspect of reading newspapers, but often they contain mockery and lashon hara too, and gossip-bearing and disputes . . . (Zechor LeMiriam, chap. 23.) Yet even those rabbis who were opposed to reading newspapers had to make use of them when it came to freeing agunot. Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Leib Mishkovsky, rabbi of Stavisk, Poland, forbade newspapers in his house. But as one can see from his responsa, Pnei Ha’Aryeh HaChai, Rabbi Mishkovsky was heavily involved in freeing agunot. Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan records that when, due to his work freeing agunot, Rabbi Mishkovsky needed to see an announcement in the Hebrew newspaper HaTzefirah (published in Warsaw), he ordered that it be taken to the courtyard outside of his house, and had it read to him while he kept his eyes closed. (Akiva Zimmerman, “Kol HaTeshuvot Be’Inyanei She’eilot U’Teshuvot,” Makor Rishon, June 23, 2011, quoting Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan, MiVolozhin ad Yerushalayim, p. 208.) Rabbi Eliyahu Krakowski is associate editor of OU Press.


JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

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While print journalism appears to be struggling for its survival, the Chareidi Orthodox Jewish press is flourishing. hushed up. I was particularly moved by a recent feature about a family that had lost a child to a drug overdose. In past years, everything about this topic would say, “Stop. Don’t write.” The author, with the obvious cooperation of the family, carefully illustrated every stage of defeat and every potential stage of turnaround within this tragic life. It was vintage Mishpacha, though, of course, many of the topics that Mishpacha deals with are far less severe, if still vitally important. Mishpacha publishes a weekly family supplement and a children’s magazine. Ami Magazine, founded in 2010, is another glossy weekly with superior graphics and design that takes the Mishpacha approach to sensitive issues, but pushes the envelope. Its editor is an excellent interviewer who is able to extract facts that his subject might prefer to disguise or hide. At the same time, Ami looks for the positive within any obviously negative news about Orthodox Jews. Ami’s family supplement, though full of “softer” features, addresses sensitive medical issues. Ami includes a children’s section, an advice column, a language column, a parnassah feature and essays on Jewish themes and current events. Some consider Ami sensationalistic. That perspective may reflect the remaining reluctance within the Orthodox community to confront troubling issues with the same frankness that we expect from the public press in its treatment of issues of public concern. Both Ami and Mishpacha publish anonymous accounts from people with fascinating, tragic or instructive but embarrassing personal stories. Within the confines of its religious outlook and lifestyle, the Chareidi press in its diversity testifies to the difficulty, and perhaps the pointlessness, of the use of labels to define the growing Orthodox Jewish community. As more of the total Jewish community becomes halachically observant and theologically committed, it is only natural to expect a renewal of the great diversity that historically defined the pre-Enlightenment Jewish community. When, in the years immediately after the Holocaust, the American Orthodox Jewish community was small, isolated, uninfluential and struggling to survive, it was only natural to expect it to be largely homogenous. Those days are long gone. The burgeoning Chareidi press reflects the dramatic changes that have taken place in the contemporary Orthodox world. 26

JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

In Favor of Newspapers Translation and text by Eliyahu Krakowski In the eighteenth century, Rabbi Yaakov Emden wrote the following about whether one may read the newspaper on Shabbat (She’eilat Ya’avetz 1:162): With regard to reading the newspapers which are printed every week to inform people of the news and what is happening regarding wars and other events which take place every day, it seems obvious to me that this is not included in the prohibition against reading documents [which may not be read on Shabbat] . . . especially in times of war or emergency, when there may be a great need to know which side is winning, and sometimes this can even be a matter of life and death . . . This obviously has better cause [to permit] than reading stories of wars for one who enjoys it . . . because [reading newspapers] is both a matter of enjoyment and necessity, and there is also suffering for one who holds himself back, especially if he usually reads them, because he longs and desires to know what is new. Therefore, it seems to me that it is completely permitted . . . However, I am inclined to be stringent for another reason, namely, because at the end [of the newspapers] they include properties and items, which are for sale, and other business matters, which one is certainly forbidden to read on Shabbat . . . . Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan records the practice of his father, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, rosh yeshivah of the Volozhin Yeshiva: In the 1880s, when the [Hebrew newspapers] HaTzefirah [printed in Warsaw] and HaMelitz [printed in St. Petersburg], began publishing every day, and the mail reached Volozhin only twice a week, there would be an entire package of newspapers in each delivery. My father made sure no one would take a single paper from him until he had gone through them all (Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan, MiVolozhin ad Yerushalayim, p. 138).  Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler reported that his father-in-law, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, “read the newspaper every morning at the breakfast table, whatever newspaper it might be—the socialistic Forward, or the Tag, or the Morning Journal and then the Algemeiner Journal" (J.J. Schacter, “Facing the Truths of History,” The Torah u-Madda Journal 8 [19981999], p. 263, n. 113). Rabbi Eliyahu Krakowski is associate editor of OU Press.


Imported by Royal Wine Corp., Bayonne, NJ. Enjoy Bartenura Blue responsibly.

Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Meet some of the women who are shaping and influencing the Orthodox world.

Managing Mishpacha By Bayla Sheva Brenner


hoshana Friedman insists she didn’t choose her field. It chose her. A computer science and math major in college, she never intended on becoming managing editor of Mishpacha magazine, a popular weekly in the Orthodox world. But the signs were there nonetheless. Friedman realized early on that she had a knack for perfecting the written word. Her high school friends counted on her to review and correct their writing assignments before handing them in. She never imagined it would become her career. After she married and moved to Eretz Yisrael, she put the word out that she needed a job. She heard that Jonathan Rosenblum, a noted author and journalist, needed a secretary and applied for the job. Rosenblum soon picked up on her eye for editing and began running all of his articles by her, saying, “Okay, mark it up!” In 2004, Eli Paley, Mishpacha’s publisher, decided to launch an English version of the Hebrew-language magazine. He needed someone not only well-versed in both languages, but someone who could take the content and make it relevant to an Anglo audience. He asked Rosenblum if he could recommend someone. The choice was obvious. Impressed with what he calls her “sophisticated and analytic” approach, as well as her ability to extract spot-on material for an English-speaking readership, Paley welcomed Friedman onto the editorial board. With her unassuming yet

Bayla Sheva Brenner is an award-winning freelance writer and a regular contributor to Jewish Action.


JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017


By Bayla Sheva Brenner

Staff of the English edition of the weekly magazine Mishpacha gather during a meeting at the Mishpacha office in Jerusalem. Photos: AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

self-assured manner, she became a key decision-maker. She started overseeing the magazine’s layout, coming up with ideas for original features and guiding the writers. When the former managing editor left in 2009, she assumed the position. “She never wanted this,” says Paley. “She prefers to work behind the scenes, letting others get the credit.” But Mishpacha needed her. And she believed in its vision. “It’s a voice of sanity for Chareidi society,” says Friedman. “Without a specific political agenda, the magazine celebrates all the positive aspects of our community and discusses the not-yet-perfect aspects—in a respectful forum where there’s back and forth between the publication, its contributors and readers.” The English-language Mishpacha readership includes men and women from across the Orthodox spectrum. Friedman sees it as a powerful medium connecting Jews around the world, and a venue to opening up discussion on the difficult issues affecting the community. Mishpacha articles have prompted off-line support groups as well as a Facebook group that regularly weighs in on the weekly. The writers attribute the appeal of their articles to the editor at the helm. “She makes us all look good,” says Yisroel Besser, columnist and contributing editor. “I [actually] welcome her criticism. If she doesn’t give any, I’m disappointed. I know

Is there a bright future for frum women interested in Jewish journalism? Friedman believes there is. she wants to make us shine. But when she says, ‘Lovely,’ you feel great.” According to Barbara Bensoussan, contributing editor, Friedman’s “calm, rational” nature serves her well as the editor of a publication that sometimes deals with sensitive topics. Not to mention a boardroom of men. “She’s an expert at being a woman in a ‘man’s world,’” says Besser. “There could be fifteen to twenty men around the table. With a lot of talented, creative people there are going to be disagreements. She never pushes herself; she doesn’t say much. But when she does, everyone listens. Ultimately, [the decision-making] comes down to—what does Shoshana think?” Friedman asserts that many of the skills essential to being an effective manager come naturally to her as a woman, such as prioritizing, compartmentalizing and interacting with diverse personalities. Still, balancing home and work isn’t always easy, especially in the winter when her children are “taking turns with the same flu.”

“It’s definitely a challenge,” she says. “I made a decision to put my family first. If a child is sick or there’s a graduation, I make up the work on my own time. I appreciate [the fact] that I work in a culture that respects that.” Friedman is not one to sit on her laurels. “She will often say, ‘If our readers are perfectly happy with the status quo of the magazine, it means we have to start revamping,’” says Bassi Gruen, managing editor of Family First, a Jewish women’s magazine that accompanies every issue of Mishpacha. “It’s not—‘Okay, everything’s good, so let me get some sleep.’ If she thinks a topic is getting slightly stale or tired, it’s ‘Okay, let’s repackage!’ She’s constantly pushing for more interesting, more innovative.” True to that objective, Friedman speaks of plans in the works to modernize the presentation of the magazine for the next decade of readers, aiming “to remain relevant and compelling to a generation that consumes information differently.” Is there a bright future for frum women interested in Jewish journalism? Friedman believes there is and mentions that a large percentage of Mishpacha’s writers and editors are female. She maintains that the typical young women coming out of the Orthodox school system would fare better in the field than their male counterparts. “[In general], these women are better read and have stronger writing skills. Any one of them who is open to honing her craft could go very far.” Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Rochel Sylvetsky From Community Activist to Editor of Leading News Site By Toby Klein Greenwald


he word “eclectic” is the one that jumps out when exploring the world of Rochel Sylvetsky—her upbringing, education and career path. She is one of the editors of, and a seasoned reporter and columnist for, the English-language Religious Zionist news site Arutz Sheva (Israel National News). Sylvetsky was raised in New York’s Lower East Side in a family whose strongly Chassidic/Yeshivish lifestyle dwelled together in peace with a vibrant dedication to modern Israel. “In our house,” she says, “the world was seen through the lens of Yiddishkeit, and we saw the State of Israel as a miracle, despite it being run by secular Jews.” Sylvetsky graduated summa cum laude from City College of New York with degrees in mathematics and English, and from Yeshiva University’s Teacher’s College. The first turning point in her life occurred when YU sent her to Machon Gold for a semester, and her love of Tanach was enriched by teachers like Nechama Leibowitz, Rabbi Yehoshua Bachrach and Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz. After making aliyah in 1971, she completed an MA in Jewish education at Touro Jerusalem. The next turning point was a painful one. In 1964 she married Dov Sylvetsky, and he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in 1969, two years before their aliyah. “He underwent a grueling new treatment which, baruch Hashem, worked, but made it necessary for me to curtail plans to continue my education,” says Sylvetsky. “We made aliyah, and he went on to found the Emunah College of Art and Technology—a religious framework for young women that was not a teachertraining program, an initiative for which he received many awards. He did not allow recurring after-effects or periodic surgery to affect his functioning—for thirty-five years.” (Her husband has since passed away.) The Sylvetskys came to Israel with two small children, eventually settling in Beit El in response to Menachem Begin’s call to settle Judea and Samaria. “We were one of the first fifteen families there, living in an army camp with no running water.” Several years later they returned to Jerusalem to care for elderly parents who had come on aliyah. For many years Sylvetsky was involved in the advancement of general and Jewish education in schools in Jerusalem and 30

JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

in development towns, and in the Ministry of Education. She was elected to the National Religious Party Secretariat and served as chairperson of Emunah Israel. She also directed a youth village for seven years, during which time she was a member of the Zevulun Regional Council. She became a mover and shaker in the world of Orthodox journalism when her letter-writing activism caught the eye of Arutz Sheva and the news site offered her a position. Currently, she serves as senior consultant to Arutz Sheva’s English-language site and as op-ed and Judaism editor. Her passion for Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael and for thinking outside the box has contributed to her success; the site has an influence far beyond the pond of Israel. From its humble beginnings as a radio station operating from a floating studio aboard a vessel anchored off the Tel Aviv coast just outside Israeli territorial waters, Arutz Sheva has grown significantly. Today it is a media network with online news in Hebrew, English and Russian, offering live streaming radio, video and free podcasts. It also publishes a highly popular weekly newspaper, B’Sheva. Its readership includes Jews and non-Jews, Evangelists, VIPs and politicians. Readers are found all over the world—in Israel, North America, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, even Jamaica. “If we editorialize, we are sure to hear from someone, so it keeps us on our toes,” she says. “I have felt happy with every career choice in my life, and always tried to be where the needs are, but this current period is the most rewarding to my neshamah, my inner self. I feel that it is crucial to get out the truth about Israel, about Religious Zionists in Israel, about Judea and Samaria and their wonderful communities, about real Modern Orthodoxy [the derech of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik], to fight what I consider the good fight in a milieu where the media is not only the message, it also has the power to create the message.” The goal, she says, is to reach those without preconceived opinions who are getting their information from media sources that are not giving them all the facts, and others who already have pro-Israel views. “If there are incidents between Gaza and Israel, we know the IDF tells the real story and experience has proven that the PA sources fabricate as they go along. We call terrorists by that name, not ‘militants’ or ‘freedom fighters,’ and we write ‘1949 Armistice Lines,’ not ‘borders;’ ‘Jewish communities,’ not ‘settlements.’ “We get out the positive truth about Israel—how miraculous it is, the amazing growth of Torah learning, the hesder yeshivah boys, Israeli innovations and hi-tech, Israel providing help to countries around the world, cultural events, and how we manage to flourish despite all the hatred. We try to show the spiritual aspect of nationalism, as Rabbi Avraham Toby Klein Greenwald is a journalist, educator and community theater director.


Yitzchak HaCohen Kook saw it. The Religious Zionist voice is heard through our interviews with leading Religious Zionist yeshivah rabbis, politicians and experts. We are not out to ‘get’ anybody, but to expose those who are anti-Semitic and those who are anti-Israel . . . . While we cite the views of the various Orthodox sectors, from the liberal to Chareidi, it is obvious to readers that we have our own Torah-oriented Religious Zionist ethos and that we are in the rightist camp.” The controversial issues can be about alternative lifestyles and LGBTQ, conversion, feminism in Judaic ritual and prayers at the Kotel. Sylvetsky is not shy about stating her opinion. “Despite the fake news to the contrary, there is already a place for mixed prayers at the Kotel. It is empty most of the time. The real conflict is over recognition. The same [is true] for conversion.” In general, using facts and not editorializing, she says, is one of the biggest challenges in presenting the truth behind a message. “China’s prime minister chastised Israel for not creating a PA state in April of 2017. Our article quoted him, but added the factual information about the eighteen unresolved border disputes going on right now between China and its neighbors, its takeover of Tibet and conflict over the South China Sea. We also remind readers of the chaos in the Arab world at present, of the negative results of the Gush Katif evacuation, and other relevant background facts.” Among her pet peeves are “politicians who crave media exposure and constantly act in superficial ways that put them in the media, and the blatant misuse of media power.”

Rochel Sylvetsky, op-ed and Judaism editor for Arutz Sheva’s English site, finds working for the religious news site “most rewarding to my neshamah, my inner self.”


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Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


While we cite the views of the various Orthodox sectors, from the liberal to Chareidi, it is obvious to readers that we have our own Torah-oriented Religious Zionist ethos. It was Sylvetsky who, seven years ago, noticed a strange rise in seemingly unrelated anti-Semitic incidents being reported by news agencies, and she gave one reporter the job of seeking out stories. “Unfortunately, we were right, and the constant trickle of incidents of blatant anti-Semitism, and anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism, became a flood. We were the first to call attention to it and fight it.” Arutz Sheva is firmly embedded in her life now. She rises very early, davens, checks the site at least three or four times in the course of the day to see if any corrections or background information is necessary, puts up about four op-eds and four articles on Judaism a day on the front page, swims three times a week, spends the afternoon writing her own articles, enjoys her grandchildren and more. She reviews the site again before she retires. She also studies Tanach, and last year studied Yiddish literature and humor; this year she’ll be studying Israeli poets. She enjoys listening to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and tries to do as much chesed as she can. The first five years she worked for Arutz Sheva, she did it as a volunteer “as my Zionist contribution to the State.” When I ask about her most challenging moments as a journalist, her dilemmas, and the difficulty of putting personal feelings aside, Sylvetsky breaks down and cries. “Every report on a terror act is emotionally draining. We are the closest to those who suffer from terror in Yesha [Judea and Samaria]. The most difficult moment of my journalistic career was turning on the computer immediately after Havdalah, and seeing the reports sent to me with news and photos of the Friday night Fogel family massacre in 2011. That led to a watershed decision at Arutz Sheva. We had never shown photos of violence, being afraid to hurt the families, and we didn’t want to give the terrorists the satisfaction, but we asked Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, rosh yeshivah of the Beit El yeshivah—he and his wife Shulamit are founders of Arutz Sheva—whether we could change our policy, and he decided it was time the world, including the Jewish world, saw with whom we are dealing. That slaughter of a baby, although not the first or last since then, unfortunately, crossed a line of barbaric cruelty. “It was also hard to report on Ayala Shapira, severely burned by a firebomb two years ago, because she is my sister’s great-granddaughter. The Litman family murder in 2015 was another tragedy, but there was also great happiness when we filmed the wedding and showed the thousands who came to rejoice. Israel is mishpachah. Literally and figuratively.” [Sarah Techiya Litman, the daughter of the terror victim, married Ariel Biegel shortly after the attack and invited “all of Klal Yisrael” to the wedding.] 32

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Sylvetsky says that the most fascinating people she has met in her journalistic career are “some of our intrepid and talented op-ed writers” and gives examples. “The journalist Giulio Meotti of Italy. He is not Jewish; he loves Israel and tells Europe the truth about Israel and the truth about Europe. He has been threatened and vilified and continues. Jack Engelhard, who is a famous and brilliant writer, has a gift for getting to the main points in a fascinating manner; Mark Langfan, who is knowledgeable, dedicated and unbelievably prophetic when it comes to the Middle East; and the highly sophisticated David Singer from Australia and others.” Throughout her career, Sylvetsky has had to make tough decisions; she didn’t want an impossible balancing act. “I always worked out hours so I was home when my children arrived, unless Dov was there. I loved being with them more than having a full-time career and don’t regret it.” She feels that in some of the positions that she held throughout her varied career, she was aware of the fact that there were almost no women in the field. “I felt I had to prove myself, but not at Arutz Sheva, which, as I mentioned, was founded and overseen by Rabbanit Shulamit Melamed, one special person! Uzi Baruch is the editor-in-chief of the Hebrew and English sites, and English-language site assistant editor is Yoni Kempinski. We work together as colleagues and friends.” Sylvetsky thinks that being a woman may make her more understanding of the younger writers. “I feel as though they are my children.” When asked for examples of male chauvinism in other venues, she says, “When I first met the youth village lawyer in his office, the new CFO accompanied me. The lawyer assumed I was the CFO’s secretary [when I was actually the CEO] and handed me a notepad to take minutes. He began talking to the embarrassed CFO, who finally choked out the words, ‘“She’s the CEO, not me.’” “And in the National Religious Party Secretariat, where I was the only woman, I mentioned something about costbenefit analysis at a budget meeting. They looked at me and said, “What do you know about things like that?” At the time, I was overseeing an enterprise with a 160-million-shekel budget, a larger budget than most of them had ever managed; moreover, I had pulled Emunah out of debt [it was 40 million shekels in the red].” But she adds now, generously, “Of course, things have changed everywhere.” What are the long-term prospects for Orthodox women in religious journalism? I ask. “The sky’s the limit. All we need is the talent and the will.”

Sivan RahavMeir Orthodox with a Hashtag By Toby Klein Greenwald


he trendiest place to be every Wednesday night in Jerusalem is not a ‘60s Anglo bar or a rock concert, but the packed hall of Hechal Shlomo, where journalist Sivan Rahav-Meir expounds on the weekly Torah portion, flowing freely between Ramban and Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, peppering the class with stories from her life and from the lives of others. She gives the same shiur every week at the trendy Tel Aviv Port, reaching more than 1,000 people between the two locations. Religious and secular men and women sit together. Rahav-Meir’s best-selling book on the weekly Torah portion, HaStatus HaYehudi (The Jewish Status), was published in Hebrew by Yediot Aharonot in 2016. The English version, #Parasha: Weekly Insights from a Leading Israeli Journalist, published by Menorah, an imprint of Koren Publishers, hit bookstores in August 2017, and is already being purchased by throngs of Anglo readers. Rahav-Meir is an anomaly. I first noticed her more than twelve years ago, when I was covering a Gush Katif session at the High Court of Justice and saw a young woman dressed modestly, with her trademark headband wig, sitting in the press booth. She had already made a name for herself as a journalist, beginning by interviewing her classmates at the age of six, and having a children’s press card by eight. She tried to get into the Demjanjuk trial with that press card at the age of ten (without success). As a teenager, she interviewed Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Raised by an affluent family in Herzliya, identified as gifted early on, she graduated high school at sixteen and completed her BA at the age of eighteen in political science and management. It was during her teen years that she began reading more about Judaism. She was a soldier in Galei Zahal (Army Radio), when she met her future husband, Yedidya Meir, at a colleague’s Saturday night birthday party that had


By Toby Klein Greenwald

Sivan Rahav-Meir in the TV studio of Channel 2 News, Israel. Photo: Ofir Hadad

Rashi is not on Facebook. And neither is the Rambam or the Baal Shem Tov or Rabbi Saadia Gaon. been rescheduled to accommodate her and Yedidya, the two Sabbath observers, she told a reporter. Rahav-Meir is the first religious female to make a name for herself in the secular media. She is a primetime anchor on Channel 2 News; has a column in Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Aharonot; and has a weekly radio show on Galei Zahal, her old stomping ground. She has presided over major national events, such as the torch lighting on Independence Day. She shares a Friday radio show with her husband, and Yedidya also broadcasts from the religious station Radio Kol Chai. Interviewed a few years ago on Channel Two, she called their work relationship a close partnership, in which they review each other’s columns and discuss ideas and show concepts.  Among the most difficult stories to cover, she says, are trials of prominent members of Israeli society. “Seeing a Toby Klein Greenwald is a journalist, educator and community theater director. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Sivan Rahav-Meir in the TV studio of Channel 2 News, Israel. Photo: Ofir Hadad


Hundreds attend RahavMeir’s weekly shiurim in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Photo: Mordechai Yurovitsky n

president of Israel, or a former prime minister, go to jail. Although you cover it [because] ‘Wow, it’s exclusive,’ you feel badly. [On the positive side,] I’ve covered very meaningful funerals—Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres, Rav Ovadia Yosef, Arik Einstein (the famous singer) . . . I like to report on things that have a touch of destiny. And I’ve had the privilege of interviewing many people I think of as holy—families of the terror victims, whose stories I cover a lot, unfortunately. You have to go to the shivah and speak to people. It’s a tragedy, but sometimes it’s the only chance to bring such messages to prime time.” When asked to recall the most fascinating interview she’s conducted, Rahav-Meir replies, “I’m still looking for it.” As a rare Orthodox Jew in the secular Israeli media, Rahav-Meir has experienced her share of dilemmas when the ideologies of her two worlds collide. “I think the hardest thing for me as a journalist is covering religion, because the media assumes that Judaism is a problem,” she says. “The media is seeking instances where religion is excessive, extreme. As if we have to ‘solve’ it somehow. It took me a few years to understand that I’m playing the wrong game because I think Judaism is a solution, not a problem. I can’t wake up [and look for] a settler or the ultra-Orthodox or a rabbi who is not politically correct enough for the media [to lambast]. So I stopped [working on those kinds of stories.] “[I’ve also had to counter the mindset that] if you come from the Orthodox sector, you’re suspected of not being objective. Supposedly, if you’re a secular Ashkenazi left-wing journalist from Tel Aviv, you’re objective. [But really] there’s no such thing as an objective journalist—we all have our opinions. [When] people insinuate, ‘Hey, that’s your own point of view,’ I reply that what they are saying is not Torah 34

JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

The hardest thing for me as a journalist is covering religion, because the media assumes that Judaism is a problem. mi’Sinai, it’s not an eternal truth either, it’s also their point of view. There are many points of view here. “I think the media doesn’t cover the real things that are happening,” continues Rahav-Meir. “Take Selichot, for example. Every year 100,000 people come to the Kotel for the last night of Selichot. The Kotel plaza is full [but it’s not covered in the news]. [And yet,] when an old band comes to sing in Ramat Gan’s park and draws 1,000 or 10,000 people, the media will livestream the event and all the reporters will be there. I think Selichot is a mega event. We should be there live with the studio. That’s one example, but I've seen it many times.” Though her career as a TV and radio personality continues, Rahav-Meir’s parashah class is her passion now. She says that two things changed that engendered this metamorphosis, this new mission in life, that manifests itself in her classes and columns and on social media. First of all, the media works differently today, she says. During the years that she covered the Supreme Court, the Knesset and politics, people would wait for the news at night [to find out the day’s news.] But today everyone knows everything immediately, so there


is less of a challenge to bring the information to the public, she says. And something else happened. “I personally changed. I know how to bring in ratings, but I wanted to use these tools to show people something else. I don’t want to tell them, ‘Look what’s happening in the Knesset.’ I want to tell them: ‘Look what’s going on in the parashah! Look at what Rashi said, not what Bibi said. Look—I have a new scoop, not about Sarah Netanyahu, but about Sarah Imeinu.’” Her children, she says, constantly propel her forward, and this current, most dramatic change is no exception. “Our fifth child was born. Every time one of the kids was born I used to pause to rethink my job. Four times I had changed something, a specific area or an issue that I covered. Now, with the birth of my fifth child, I wanted a real change. I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to wake up and leave five gorgeous kids at home in order to run and see what some politician has to say. I want to do something that’s more meaningful.’ And I saw that there’s not enough Torah in the new media areas. Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook—everything is there, except for the Torah. Rashi is not on Facebook. And neither is the Rambam or the Baal Shem Tov or Rabbi Saadia Gaon. “So I decided to use our high ratings to put these [commentators] there. I’ve had a very popular Facebook page for two years but now, since my shiur, it’s even more popular. I try to reach one million people every week. We have 135,000 followers. And on Twitter, I have more than 110,000 followers. We have a daily WhatsApp in Hebrew and English that sends out short stories and items, because the queen of all applications in Israel is WhatsApp. We have almost 20,000 official subscribers, but there are a lot more who pass these messages on, so we have no idea how many people we are really reaching. Sometimes my writing will show up in a WhatsApp group of kindergarten mothers an hour or two after I write it. It’s funny when that happens. But,” she adds, “I’m not [teaching Torah this way] lechatchila. Torah [cannot be studied seriously] in cute, short posts; it’s only a way to taste Torah. [Hopefully], then people will want to learn more.” If the numbers at her weekly shiurim are anything to go by, people do want to learn more. For Rahav-Meir, preparing her shiurim is an all-encompassing activity. “It takes me a whole week, 24/7, to prepare for a Torah class, because I think about it all the time. I prepare by reading, and I think about the shiur even when I’m listening to the news; I can be driving and I hear something on the radio and it gives me an idea. Everything is connected.” One woman who has been coming to the shiur for years says, “Most people are totally addicted to her shiur. The hour flies; I never look at my watch. Every erev Shabbat I quote something from what she taught that week. And every day I read her WhatsApp divrei Torah.” Rahav-Meir’s short posts on WhatsApp and Facebook form the basis of the Hebrew version of the book. Her posts draw attention to interesting news topics and connect them to the weekly Torah portion. “For me it’s a great

#Parasha, the English version of HaStatus HaYehudi, the best-selling Hebrew book on the weekly parashah by Sivan Rahav-Meir.

privilege to publish this book in the US,” she says. Many Anglos attend her shiur, including lone soldiers. RahavMeir just returned from lecturing in Los Angeles, New York and Washington before 3,000 people at a convention of a large Jewish organization. When I took her book, not knowing where to begin, I turned to Parashat Pinchas, which includes the story of the daughters of Tzelafchad. The first thing that caught my eye was the name she gave to the topic: “Men are from the Desert, Women are from the Land of Israel,” a parody reference to Dr. John Gray’s book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The title is based upon Rashi, who says that the women were not included in the decree after the sin of the spies because they cherished the land, as well as on the Kli Yakar, who says that had Moshe sent women as spies, instead of men, they would have brought back an optimistic report. Rahav-Meir succeeded in compacting a rich and intense topic into a few pages. As I read other sections of the book, I saw that this is her method—deep ideas are presented in a way that caters to the general public, just as journalists have learned to convey information in the most compact and compelling way. Nevertheless, even those who have studied Torah extensively will find the book hard to put down, as it is filled with pearls of wisdom, drawing from Torah scholars and Jewish history through the ages to the present time. I wait every day for Rahav-Meir’s WhatsApp notes. They are always filled with Torah, hope and joy. On the third of Elul this year, the yarhtzeit of Rav Kook, she quoted his words, “One feels the beauty of the world only according to the measure of beauty that is in the inner core of one’s soul.” Her mission now appears to be the juxtaposing of one’s inner beauty with the beauty of Torah. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Rechy Frankfurter: Ami’s Woman at the Helm By Bayla Sheva Brenner


hen Rechy Frankfurter and her husband Yitzchok launched Ami Magazine in 2010, they weren’t the only game in town. A variety of competing frum newsprint and glossy publications were already lining the supermarket racks. Undeterred, they went on to claim Ami’s prominent place among them. As the former editor of two major Chareidi publications, Rechy set out to create a “more inclusive” magazine (hence, the name “Ami,” “my nation”), one that would appeal to the full spectrum of Orthodox Jews. True to that vision, Ami has featured interviews with notables from across the Chassidic, Yeshivish and Modern Orthodox sectors of the community, as well as with movers and shakers in the secular world. The magazine secured exclusive interviews with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former New York Governor George Pataki, among others. In addition, Ami’s senior White House correspondent, Jake Turx, is the sole overtly Orthodox Jewish member of the White House press corps, says Frankfurter. Frankfurter sees the magazine as a powerful platform to address pressing concerns in the frum community, such as the rising cost of Orthodox life. Thus, Ami introduced BizTank, a platform where entrepreneurs and business people can pitch their ideas, as well as their existing business expansion plans, patents and concepts, in the hopes of generating investment offers. Ami also features a column spotlighting successful businessmen who share their secrets for success. “There are many creative people in our community with brilliant ideas,” says Frankfurter, “but they lack both the finances and the business know-how to bring that to fruition. Or they have a business that desperately needs cash to grow. This is where BizTank steps in.” Despite the overflow of frum weeklies available, Ami seems to have a solid readership. Frankfurter welcomes the competition.


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Photo: Yehoshua Halevi

“When I was growing up, we didn’t have these publications,” she says. “You could read a secular women’s magazine, but you’d feel like an outsider looking in.” An insatiable reader even as a kid, Frankfurter never actually considered a career in publishing. In fact, her resume doesn’t resemble those of most successful magazine launchers. She grew up in a Satmar home, attended a Chassidic girls’ high school, and never went to college. Frankfurter does, however, recall frequent, parent-approved expeditions to the public library. Her mother, who enjoyed reading books, encouraged her children to do the same. After marrying and starting a family, Frankfurter treasured her stay-at-home-mom years. It wasn’t until her children were grown that she began working with her husband in real estate. Then her life took an unanticipated turn. A close friend, then managing editor of Hamodia, knew of her knack for recognizing quality writing and asked if she would be interested in editing Hamodia’s magazine supplement. With her husband’s encouragement, she entered the frum publishing world and never left. That professional leap offered her valuable opportunities to turn her love of the written word into a fine-tuned craft.

Bayla Sheva Brenner is an award-winning freelance writer and a regular contributor to Jewish Action.

Unlike the majority of editors of leading secular print publications, Frankfurter isn’t fazed by the proliferation of digital media. “It’s extremely stimulating to work with her,” says Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum, Ami’s feature editor. “She is astute and on target. She has unerring instincts in terms of what the public wants to read.” Frankfurter feels gratified by Ami’s rising popularity, but admits there are significant challenges that come with being a magazine editor. “There is a misconception that if your kids aren’t at home anymore, you are free. At my point in life, I juggle [taking care of] parents who are elderly and having to be there for my adult children. There’s this constant struggle to be there for everyone. You try your best to balance it and hope you’re succeeding in doing a good job




ng for a i k o Ra Lo b



without sacrificing the family. That’s the biggest challenge for any working woman.” To ensure all of the material is 100 percent kosher in each issue, including the articles in Aim, Ami’s children’s magazine, Frankfurter enlisted Rabbi Moshe Taub as rabbinic editor and Rabbi Shay Tahan as halachic advisor. “I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility,” she says. “You will never see an article in Aim, our magazine for tweens, about a girl complaining about her mother, for example. We want to promote derech eretz with messages of how to overcome difficulties, and of empowerment—empowerment is important to us. The underlying message should be the right one, even in a fictional story.” Unlike the majority of editors of leading secular print publications, she isn’t fazed by the proliferation of digital media. “Our readership will always need something to read on Shabbos,” she says. “I personally enjoy reading [a hard copy] much more. Even in the secular world, I don’t think digital will completely overtake how we read.” Overall, she feels the high-quality frum print publications convey a critical message. “It’s good for young people to know that within the framework of halachah, you can achieve this. We can maintain our boundaries and still produce high-end, sophisticated publications. We have a first-rate media that can match the [best] media out there, [presented] in a way we can be proud of.”

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We will find you the best couple, trained specifically for Modern Orthodox spiritual, educational and rabbinic leadership. For more information contact Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein:, or +972-50-697-9500. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Early Orthodox Journalism By Judith Bleich


yper-connected as we are today to multimedia sources of information, with global news instantaneously available at our fingertips, it takes a leap of imagination to appreciate what newspapers and journals meant to people in generations long gone by. The periodical that arrived in the post or that was purchased from the newsagent brought tidings and vital information to the thirsty homebound reader eager to hear of the welfare of kith and kin, to discover what was transpiring in faraway lands or to be emotionally transported by tales and stories of the great wide world. The nineteenth century—particularly from the 1830s onward—saw an efflorescence of Jewish newspapers and journals throughout Europe and extending to the Caribbean and North America. Some scholars speculate, quite plausibly, that the tragic unfolding of circumstances surrounding the 1840 Damascus blood libel served as an impetus for the increase in newspaper coverage of foreign events. A truth was impressed upon Jewish communities worldwide with forceful clarity: Scapegoating, fabricated charges and torture could be curtailed if only accurate factual reports reached major centers of population and nefarious persecution was exposed.1 The development of a vibrant Jewish periodical literature was significant for a reason beyond providing knowledge of unfolding events. During a period of intellectual, political, social and religious ferment, it was in the pages of Dr. Judith Bleich is a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York.


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the printed journals, the Zeitschriften, that passionate debates and arguments, visions and counter-visions were presented, scrutinized, contested and subjected to seemingly endless analysis. For a people intoxicated by printer’s ink it should not be surprising that, concurrent with many genres of daily, weekly and monthly papers and journals that became commonplace in Europe, a colorful and variegated literary periodical scene emerged in Jewish enclaves. Peri Etz Chayim, a Hebrew monthly featuring rabbinic halachic rulings, appeared in Amsterdam from 1728 to 1761 and is generally regarded as the earliest magazine-type Jewish

The nineteenth century, particularly from the 1830s onward, saw an efflorescence of Jewish newspapers and journals throughout Europe and extending to the Caribbean and North America. journal. Other pioneering Hebrewlanguage endeavors were the two issues of Moses Mendelssohn’s Kohelet Mussar (1750) and HaMe’assef (1784), the more successful monthly literary organ of his disciples. By the early decades of the next century many of the newly-established periodicals were in languages other than Hebrew, with the preponderance appearing in German. A Jewish-themed press began to flourish in Austria, France (the celebrated Archives Israélites de France), England

and Holland. In the 1840s the Western Hemisphere witnessed the appearance of The Occident in Philadelphia (184369) and First Fruits of the West (1844) in Jamaica followed by several other ventures, while the next decade saw the inauguration of a plethora of Jewish publications in Germany, Hungary, Romania, Italy, Galicia and Russia. Singularly noteworthy was the partisan role of this press in which distinctively denominational journals played an all-important role in the turbulent religious life of local communities. With the growth of the Reform movement in the nineteenth century, factionalism became a hallmark of Jewish life. By the second decade of the century, the ideological cleavage within the ranks of Judaism had become pronounced; Orthodoxy and Reform emerged as distinct factions pitted against one another in a struggle for supremacy. The fierce ideological controversies and communal political struggles they spawned played themselves out dramatically in the pages of the periodical literature. Strident pleas for change and innovation were penned in a variety of Reformsponsored journals beginning with the early monthly, Sulamith (1806), and later in Ludwig Philippson’s more moderate Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums (est’d. 1837) and the radical Der Israelit des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (1839-1848). It was into this lively, pulsating literary arena that a fledgling Orthodox journal, Der treue Zionswächter (The Faithful Guardian of Zion), plunged in 1845. One cannot overemphasize the impact at that juncture of Jewish history of the appearance of a German-language journal that was unabashedly devoutly


Orthodox in orientation. By then, fluency in the vernacular had come to be regarded as an emblematic criterion of eligibility for civil rights. Even Mendelssohn, the rationalist, was so biased in his criticism of the Yiddish of his coreligionists that he had written, “I fear that this jargon has contributed not little to the immorality of the common man; and I expect a very good effect from the increasing use of the pure German idiom.”2 The disdain evident in this illogical reasoning was echoed in many screeds against the Orthodox.3 In their endeavor to bolster the Orthodox sector of the community and to repel further encroachments of Reform, Orthodox leaders were anxious to rehabilitate the image of traditional Judaism in the public eye and to dispel the notion that their rabbinate was culturally primitive, unenlightened and uninformed.4 They realized that a major impediment to their efforts had been the failure to address the youth in a language they understood. One of the earliest Orthodox scholars to preach in German, Rabbi Ya’akov Ettlinger, a preeminent halachist, later renowned as the author of Talmudic novellae Aruch laNer and Teshuvot Binyan Zion, was committed to harnessing the vernacular, both spoken and written, to propagate the ideology of Torah. In response to the first Reform rabbinical conference (1844), Rabbi Ettlinger became determined to publicize a formal protest. In order to gather as many Orthodox signatures as possible, he composed a text in German and circulated it among his colleagues. Rabbi Abraham Samuel Benjamin Sofer, the Ktav Sofer, hesitated to sign a German text and, accordingly, following his recommendation, an amended document, a manifesto entitled Shelomei Emunei Yisra’el, was published in 1845 as a Hebrew text accompanied by a German version and appended rabbinic signatures.5 The importance of employing the vernacular is reflected in a published Reform rejoinder whose author jeeringly remarked: “Do count your men! How many among them understand German?”6 Indeed, a crucial turning point in the Orthodox response to the challenge of

Front page of the first issue of Der treue Zionswächter, July 3, 1845. Rabbi Ya’akov Ettlinger initiated the weekly magazine for the purpose of spreading Torah ideology in the vernacular German—a radical move at the time. All images in this article are from JCS Universitätsbibliothek Frankfurt am Main/ Digitale Sammlung Judaica (sammlungen.

Reform was the reaction to the Reform rabbinical conferences of 1844, 1845 and 1846 as heralded by the publication of Shelomei Emunei Yisra’el. Although the manifesto itself had little impact, it reflected a new mindset. Awareness that the partisans of Reform had now constituted themselves as an organized and militant movement, Orthodox leaders awakened to the reality that a passive stance, negativity, condemnations and bans would not further their cause. The need of the hour was for concerted action, a program of positive activities in the areas of education, synagogue decorum, social agencies and, above all, mass communication. The Zionswächter, the periodical founded in Altona by Rabbi Ettlinger, was published as a weekly from July 3, 1845 until June 28, 1850. After a hiatus of a year, the journal resumed publication and appeared again, as a bi-weekly with fewer pages, from July 4, 1851 until early in 1856.7 A Hebrew supplement, Shomer Zion haNe’eman, was published fortnightly from July 1, 1846 until March 28, 1856, with an interruption of one year (July 5, 1850 to July 11, 1851). In all, two hundred and twenty-two issues of the Hebrew supplement were published. Rabbi Ettlinger engaged the services of Rabbi Dr. Samuel J. Enoch as editor of these periodicals. At the time, Rabbi Enoch was the director of the Altona Talmud Torah, and played a prominent role in communal and charitable affairs. In 1856 Rabbi Enoch was called to

the rabbinate of Fulda. Apparently, cessation of publication of the Hebrew periodical that year was the result of Rabbi Enoch’s departure for Fulda. Throughout the duration of its publication, the Zionswächter served first and foremost as an apologia for Orthodoxy. Countless articles were devoted to discussions of the role of religion in the modern world, the evolving nature of the rabbinate, the selection of candidates to fill rabbinic positions, the new functions of various communal institutions and changing family dynamics. Orthodox response to the challenge of political emancipation and assertion of the patriotism of the Orthodox community were recurring themes. From the very inception, considerable space was devoted to matters pertaining to education. An attempt was made to analyze the effects of political developments on the evolution of the German educational system and to examine the merits of separation of church and school. Elementary schools, high schools, seminaries for the training of teachers and rabbis, yeshivot and adult education were the subject of numerous contributions. Much attention was focused on the major halachic controversies of the time, with particular emphasis on attacks on circumcision and metzitzah as well as on halachic problems stemming from the proliferation of civil marriage. While at times echoes of the bitter conflicts between Reform and Orthodox protagonists reverberated in the pages of the journal, there was a distinct endeavor to maintain the discussion on a dignified level and lapses into invective and strident partisanship were rare. The magazine published brief articles on Jewish history written in a popular style and short biographies of historical personalities, such as Saadia, Ibn Ezra, Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION 39


Left: Front page of Der Israelit from its first issue, May 15, 1860. This Orthodox weekly appeared under the editorship of Rabbi Marcus Lehmann and was published uninterruptedly until 1939. Right: Front cover of the monthly journal Jeschurun, October 1855. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch created the journal in 1845 for the “furtherance of Jewish spirit and Jewish life in home, community and school.”

Maimonides and Abravanel. Poetic translations as well as original verse were also a regular feature of the magazine. Many issues contained selections from the liturgy rendered into German verse. Noteworthy was an attempt to harness the journal as a means of aiding Sabbath observers in their efforts to obtain employment as well as the magazine’s role in promoting charitable endeavors and centralizing charitable collections. The favorable reception that greeted the German journal encouraged Rabbis Ettlinger and Enoch to publish a Hebrew supplement, Shomer Zion haNe’eman, as well. The Hebrew journal was designed to fill a void in the intellectual life of the Orthodox community. It was envisioned that the availability of a forum for publication would foster an atmosphere of study and scholarship and would encourage formulation of reasoned responses to the novel questions of Jewish law and ethics which were the product of the modern age. Rabbinic scholars were indeed quick to endorse the new literary undertaking and the periodical soon boasted an impressive roster of contributors. Articles were authored by prominent rabbis residing in Germany, Hungary, France, Poland and Palestine. The publication succeeded 40

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in generating a lively exchange of ideas among the various contributors. Frequently, discussion of a particular topic would continue over several issues with various scholars presenting their views with regard to the particular problems raised. The scholarly debate encouraged by the publication was one of its most valuable achievements and served to enhance the prestige of Talmudic study.8 Remarkable in a rabbinic journal of this genre was its orientation toward modern critical scholarship and the publication of numerous manuscripts of medieval scholars. The editors were also eager to foster study of the Hebrew language and declared their wish to contribute to the enhancement of Hebrew literary style and their “desire to disseminate over the face of the world . . . the light of our holy language from its hidden treasures.”9 Rabbi Ettlinger considered belief in the restoration of Zion to be at the heart of a Jew’s faith. It was the anticipation of Israel’s spiritual rebirth as foreseen by the Prophets that sustained Israel throughout the centuries. Any attempt to eradicate this belief would constitute a mortal blow to Jewry. In his anti-Reform polemics, Rabbi Ettlinger reiterated his conviction that rejection of the belief in the restoration of Zion

was the symbol of the final parting of the ways. The very choice of the name “The Faithful Guardian of Zion” for both his German and Hebrew publications indicated that he deemed belief in Zion to be an issue of central importance. It was in defense of that doctrine that the ramparts must be manned. In both journals, matters relating to the welfare of the Holy Land were featured prominently. Articles concerning Palestine published in the Zionswächter fell into three categories: news items, descriptions of conditions in the country and appeals for funds. During the period of more than ten years in which the Hebrew Shomer Zion haNe’eman was published, it was instrumental in forging links between members of the scholarly community in the Holy Land and their colleagues in Europe. The importance of both this Hebrew journal and its German-language counterpart in strengthening the bonds between the Jews of Palestine and the diaspora should not be underestimated. Assessment of the Zionswächter’s success depends upon one’s vantage point. The columnists of the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums tended to view the Zionswächter with a measure of disdain. Yet on a very fundamental level, this Orthodox journal did meet the challenge of the Reform publications: It was written in fluent German and its table of contents included belles lettres, poetry and scholarly essays. Numerous scholarly works were authored by leading exponents of the Wissenschaft des Judentums; but learned tomes were not the appropriate means for the dissemination of new ideas among the masses. Newspapers and journals, with their lighter style, briefer articles and periodic exposure, provided ideal media for publicizing and popularizing religious innovations. To be sure, for a great number of readers these periodicals were of interest primarily as sources of information, diversion and entertainment and only secondarily for their theological content. Yet, precisely because the influence was subtle and indirect was its effect more pronounced. Thus, for example, the Allgemeine Zeitung enjoyed unusual success on the popular level and consequently was one

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of the most powerful instruments for advancing Reform ideology. Until the appearance of the traditionalist publications fostered by Rabbi Ettlinger, no comparable media were available to the Orthodox. The Zionswächter and Shomer Zion haNe’eman were significant, not so much because they presented a response to the view of Reform, but because they provided the Orthodox public with alternative reading material. They were effective primarily for their role in the struggle of the Orthodox for containment of Reform, rather than as a means of spreading Orthodoxy among those who had left the fold. The pioneering work of Rabbis Ettlinger and Enoch convinced the Orthodox of the crucial role played by the communications media in the modern world. Shortly before the Zionswächter ceased publication, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch announced his intention to found a new Orthodox journal devoted to the “furtherance of Jewish spirit and Jewish life in home, community and school.” This periodical, a monthly called Jeschurun, was published from October 1854 to September 1870. Jeschurun served as a forum to disseminate Rabbi Hirsch’s own views as well as articles and news of general interest to the Orthodox community. A publication which was destined to have a greater impact on the wider community was Der Israelit, an Orthodox weekly which first appeared on May 15, 1860 under the editorship of Rabbi Marcus Lehmann and was published uninterruptedly until 1939. A more direct chain of influence may be traced from the Altona periodicals to another important journalistic venture. In June 1870, at Rabbi Ezriel Hildesheimer’s initiative, an Orthodox weekly, Die jüdische Presse, was founded in Berlin. In an article appearing in its second edition, June 24, 1870, Rabbi Hildesheimer noted that Die jüdische Presse was the spiritual heir of the Zionswächter. In the spirit of its predecessor, Rabbi Hildesheimer declared, Die jüdische Presse would be dedicated to the interests of “true Judaism” and would endeavor to serve as a “guardian of Zion.” One of the most striking resemblances in the editorial policy of the 42

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two periodicals was the positive manner in which both journals addressed themselves to questions relating to the Land of Israel. With the proliferation of periodicals, newspapers and online forums in our own day, there is one particular aspect of the earliest Orthodox publications that merits attention. The authors of the manifesto Shelomei Emunei Yisra’el opened their proclamation with a citation of Ezekiel 33:7, “So you, O son of man, I have set you a watchman unto the House of Israel” and incorporated in the masthead of each issue of Shomer Zion haNe’eman were the words “Founded by an association of rabbis and scholars standing in the breach and guarding the holy charge.” Clearly, there was an understanding and appreciation of the awesome power of the written word and the concomitant responsibility incumbent on writers and publishers. It is related that one evening, the Chassidic sage Reb Naphtali of Ropshitz met a watchman making his rounds and asked him, “For whom are you working?” After answering, the man turned to the rabbi and inquired, “And you, for whom are you working, Rabbi?” The Ropshitzer was thunderstruck. He walked alongside the man for a bit and then asked him, “Will you work for me?” “Yes,” the man responded, “I should like to, but what would be my duties?” “To remind me,” responded Reb Naphtali, “to remind me.” Notes 1. See, for example, Baruch Mevorah, “Effects of the Damascus Affair upon the Development of the Jewish Press 1840-1846” (Hebrew), Zion, 23-24 (1958-59), 46-65. 2. Schriften, V, 605, cited in Michael A. Meyer, The Origins of the Modern Jew: Jewish Identity and European Culture in Germany, 1794-1829 (Detroit, 1967), 44. 3. Cf. Naphtali Hertz Wiesel, Divrei Shalom veEmet (Vienna, 1806), 15-17 and Eliezer Lieberman, Or Nogah (Dessau, 1818), pt. 1, 8-9. 4. Reform protagonists frequently branded the Orthodox as “stillständler” (immobile) and mocked them as back-

ward and primitive. See, for example, W. Gunther Plaut, The Rise of Reform Judaism (New York, 1963), xxiii. 5. See Iggerot Soferim, ed. Solomon Schreiber (Vienna and Budapest, 1933), section 3, no. 5, p. 6. 6. Abraham Adler, Sendschreiben an die sieben und siebzig sogenannten Rabbiner die durch Verdächtigung und Verläumdung zu gewinnen wähnen (Worms, 1845), 6. 7. See Rabbi Yehudah Aharon Horovitz, “Mi’Toldot ha’Mechaber,” in She’eilot uTeshuvot haAruch laNer (Jerusalem, 1989), I, 35 and ibid., note 2. It is unclear whether the date Horovitz gives for the final issue of the German publication is correct. Cf., Richard Gottheil and William Popper, “Periodicals,” Jewish Encyclopedia (New York, 1906), IX, 604, who give 1855 as the date. The final issue included in the Compact Memory Collection is dated December 29, 1854. 8. From the very outset, the Germanlanguage journal was focused on defense of Orthodoxy and negation of Reform whereas its Hebrew supplement, while equally devoted to those goals, was more positive in orientation. It is not surprising that, as a result, the German journal contains but few contributions of either literary or scholarly import. Yet, the Hebrew journal is replete with articles of lasting value. Many of the responsa published therein were subsequently included in responsa collections and were cited in the works of later rabbinic scholars. Consequently, a demand for copies of issues of this journal continued long after they ceased to circulate and caused them to become collectors’ items. The republication of Shomer Zion haNe’eman in New York, 1963, is evidence of its enduring interest and value as a rich treasury of Jewish scholarship. 9. No. 106. An editorial note concludes: “For only in the aggrandizement of Torah and the flowering of the idiom of our language will the faithful guardians of Zion achieve their desire.”


Champion of the Orthodox Right


n March 1970, Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner expressed concern about the state of public opinion among America’s Jews. He described the Jewish media as “manufactured” and “often corrosive.” As one of the principal leaders of the yeshivah world, Rabbi Hutner was well aware that newspapers often portrayed the yeshivah world as being out of touch with the rest of the more modern-oriented American Jewish scene. But, admitted Rabbi Hutner, journalism was an unavoidable component of everyday life. The Chaim Berlin rosh yeshivah therefore called for a “proper understanding of public opinion and the public opinion media” informed by “Torah principles.” He urged for an effort that might “undermine the tyranny of public opinion,” at least the kind that paid a disservice to his brand of Orthodox Judaism, the Agudath Israel cause.1 Agudath Israel’s executive head was also bothered by the contemporary Rabbi Dr. Zev Eleff is chief academic officer of the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and associate professor of Jewish history at Touro College and University System.


By Zev Eleff

Rabbi Wolpin understood the language of Jewish journalism. discourse that disadvantaged the Orthodox Right. In 1960, Rabbi Moshe Sherer complained to Rabbi Mordechai Gifter of Cleveland’s Telshe Yeshiva that “our greatest tragedy [is] that we have no public organ through which to speak to the masses.” A few years later, Rabbi Sherer had somewhat remedied the situation by establishing the Jewish Observer, an intellectualminded magazine aimed, in the words of Rabbi Sherer’s biographer, to “provide readers with a thorough grounding in Agudah ideology.”2 This and other initiatives helped, but did not calm concerned leaders like Rabbi Hutner. The public relations problem was solved a few months after Rabbi Hutner’s plea. In October 1970,

Photos and illustrations courtesy of the Agudath Israel National Orthodox Jewish Archives

Rabbi Nisson Wolpin assumed the helm of the Jewish Observer. RETOOLING, NOT REBRANDING The new editor took over the Agudah periodical without much fanfare. The Seattle-born Torah Vodaath-trained rabbi did not pen a manifesto or editorialize ceremoniously about a new direction for the Agudath Israel organ. Perhaps he did this at the advice of Rabbis Yaakov Kamenetsky and Gedalia Schorr; both had encouraged him to accept the magazine’s mantle. No doubt, it was vital to maintain continuity, publish the words and thoughts of leading Agudah rabbinic luminaries and stay in line with the witty style that successfully marked the first seven years of the journal’s run. So, this general studies principal of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath of Queens (later, Yeshiva Ohr Yisroel) began in understated fashion, translating a section of Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler’s recently published writings.3 No note on Rabbi Wolpin’s appointment. Neither pomp nor circumstance. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Rabbi Hutner described the Jewish media as “manufactured” and “often corrosive.” public opinion, a skill he wielded until his death in April 2017.

Rabbi Nisson Wolpin, editor of The Jewish Observer from 1970 to 2009.

Changes were unavoidable; outgoing editor Rabbi Yaakov Jacobs was, as he would have put it, somewhere in between the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel camps. He later edited the OU’s Jewish Life, the predecessor to Jewish Action. Rabbi Wolpin was an Agudah man—but he was not a newspaperman or veteran journalist like Rabbi Jacobs. Yet, Rabbi Wolpin had more than a modicum of interest in the industry. In the 1960s, he had encouraged his young charges at Torah Vodaath to express themselves in newsprint and learn about current events in an almost Deweyan style.4 More importantly, Rabbi Wolpin understood the language of Jewish journalism. In the postwar period, social scientists had taught rabbis and other communal leaders how to express themselves in sociological terms. Jews of all stripes drew from demographic studies and employed social science categories like “race,” “acculturation,” “otherness” and especially “suburbanization” to impart their wisdom and vision for Jewish life in the United States.5 This kind of sophisticated rhetoric also came in handy in the thick of polemics, to convince the rank-and-file members of the Jewish community who tended to be better swayed with more scholarly than impassioned arguments. Rabbi Wolpin—who concurrently served as director of the Agudah’s Bureau of Public Information—was quick to master the new discourse of Jewish 44

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WRITING WITH AUTHORITY Rabbi Wolpin’s writing was compelling, and it stayed that way until the Agudath Israel announced in 2009 that it would suspend publication of the Jewish Observer due to financial limitations. For four decades, however, Rabbi Wolpin used that position to champion the Agudah’s cause. This included staunch opposition to Conservative and Reform Judaism in the United States and Israel. With considerable compassion, the magazine threw light on mental health matters in the Orthodox community, and how its educational system might be improved to quell noticeable attrition. Rabbi Wolpin’s editorials preached allegiance to the Agudah’s rabbinic establishment, often at the expense of the “Moderns” and “Centrists” who sided with the Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshiva University and their champion, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, whose obituary was rather muted and made mention of how the Rav was “alone in the path he took.”6 Some, like the Jewish writer and social critic, David Singer, believed that this tactic was an “essential weakness,” and that the journal claimed its identity through “unrelieved negativism.”7 It was a criticism to which Rabbi Wolpin took exception.8 Along with the social science rhetoric, this was something that increased the profile and volume of the Jewish Observer. Both were the stuff of journalism and public opinion that helped fulfill Rabbi Hutner’s vision and made Rabbi Wolpin such a pivotal figure in Orthodox Jewish life. His pioneering efforts can be traced back to some key examples from his first decade on the job.

THE 1970S AND THE NEW JEWISH OBSERVER AGENDA Throughout his first decade of leadership, Rabbi Wolpin authored lengthy essays that advocated for the Agudath Israel mission while trying to stretch the magazine’s readership to other interested parties and decisionmakers. Take, for instance, his campaign to reroute philanthropic funding to yeshivot and day schools. Rabbi Wolpin took on the Council of Jewish Federation and Welfare Funds, calling on this organization—and using its own rhetoric—to reconsider how to best close the gap between “public declarations” and “private conduct.” He marshalled much data on educational funding and its ability to stymie intermarriage in a variety of locales. He also reproduced the oft-discussed findings of Professor Eli Ginzberg of Columbia University to argue for the supposedly untapped protentional of the Orthodox Right’s educational system. In May 1973, Rabbi Wolpin used all this to call attention to the Board of Jewish Education and its Professional Advisory Committee. He noted the leading Conservative and Reform leaders on the panel, as well as Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Professor Isadore Twersky’s roles as the Orthodox representatives on the committee. “The composition of this group seems to confine the Federation’s concept of Orthodoxy to that segment of the Torah-study community represented by Yeshiva University,” surmised Rabbi Wolpin. “While YU represents a well-organized, clearly defined segment of this community, it is only one specific segment, divided from many others by distinct ideological differences.”9 In other words, Rabbi Wolpin desired increased funding for his brand of Orthodox Judaism to help contend with the intermarriage dilemma in the United States. Rabbi Wolpin returned to this crusade time and again in his magazine, sometimes sprinkling more Torah sourc-

es and at other times quoting the research of surgeon generals and senators to lobby for Orthodox schools and camps.10 Rabbi Wolpin held a deep respect for this sort of research. He once averred that “without raw statistical data, it is quite impossible to pretend to translate this force [of assimilation] into a projection of the make-up of American Jewry.” In March 1976, he weighed in again on intermarriage, reproducing charts from an American Jewish Committee survey, reporting on the learned responses of leading personalities like Rabbis Seymour Siegel and Norman Lamm, drawing upon the insights of sociologist Erich Rosenthal. He wrapped it all together with the regionalized research of the Baltimore and Cleveland Jewish communities and demonstrated that the best “battle-cry against the inroads of assimilation” could be learned from a parable once told by Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman.11 What is more, from time to time his broad reading and authoritative voice gave Rabbi Wolpin confidence to rebuff the claims of “the statistician and his computer forecast[ing] doomsday.”12 Respect for social science did not compel him to agree all of the time. In November 1974, Rabbi Wolpin lashed out against the emerging women’s liberation movement and the “Jewish woman [who] flees her home-centered orbit of activities to join her non-Jewish sisters in seeking liberation from tradition.” Yet, even here Rabbi Wolpin was keenly aware of the language of discourse. He used it to his advantage, appealing to examples that would resonate with his readership: The quest for equality to the point of sameness has even brought the dictionary to the chopping block. Directives have been issued to copy editors in the McGraw-Hill Publishing House to purge their lexicon of sexist expressions. Hence, fires are doused by “firepeople,” not firemen,”— a chairperson wields the gavel, not a chairman or a chairlady. Further, book illustrations are to show television sets being repaired by women, while men cuddle the baby on the sidelines. “Equal” must mean “indistinguishable.”13 Rabbi Wolpin also had a knack for thickening the description of the topic under investigation. Neither he nor his

journal was interested in breaking news stories. Yet, Rabbi Wolpin made sure to keep up with scores of Jewish newspapers and periodicals. He was fond of reproducing segments of articles and offering his commentary below it.14 Rabbi Wolpin collected newspaper clippings and almost like an anthropologist poured them into his writing so that the magazine’s readers had a very good grasp of the scene from all angles. This is exactly how Rabbi Wolpin addressed the Conservative Movement’s decision to count women for a minyan, Reform Judaism’s initial encounters with patrilineal descent, and numerous features on religion and state in Israel.15 On a very high scholarly level, he wrote ethnographically about America’s emerging kollel movement—the learning, the families, the communities— after he interviewed many prominent heads of these Lakewood-generated institutions around the United States.16 By the mid-1970s, Rabbi Wolpin’s magazine had already done much for the Agudath Israel cause. David Singer recognized the journal as the most prominent mouthpiece of the Orthodox Right. Singer admired Rabbi Wolpin’s tenacity and prose, and a certain quality that “guarantees lively reading.” Writing a few years later, sociologist William Helmreich supposed that the magazine was the best-read journal within the yeshivah world, particularly on Shabbat afternoons.17 The early accolades and journalistic awareness kept Rabbi Wolpin in good stead. For many decades, he remained a leading voice of the Orthodox Right, even as others joined Rabbi Wolpin in the media arena and competed with him for readers. He was the most prominent and pioneering mouthpiece for a community that had once desperately sought out a public voice. Notes 1. See Yitzchok Hutner, “Our Attitude Toward Public Opinion,” Jewish Observer 6 (March 1970): 11-13. 2. See Yonoson Rosenblum, Rabbi Sherer: The Paramount Torah Spokesman of Our Era (Brooklyn, 2009), 359. 3. Nisson Wolpin, “The Anatomy of Teshuvah,” Jewish Observer 6 (October 1970): 3-5.

4. See Nisson Wolpin, “Let’s Write a Newspaper,” Jewish Parent 11 (April 1960): 11-13. My thanks to my friend, Menachem Butler, for sharing this article with me and for the insightful conversations we share on Rabbi Wolpin and so many other fascinating matters. 5. See Lila Corwin Berman, Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity (Berkeley, 2009), 34-52. 6. See Nisson Wolpin, “The UOJCA, the Synagogue Council of America, and the Wave of the Future,” Jewish Observer 10 (April 1975): 8-10; and “Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik,” Jewish Observer 26 (May 1993): 43. 7. David Singer, “Voices of Orthodoxy,” Commentary 58 (July 1974): 59. 8. See Nisson Wolpin, “Orthodoxy,” Commentary 58 (November 1974): 24. 9. Nisson Wolpin, “Moment of Truth,” Jewish Observer 9 (May 1973): 17. 10. See, for example, Nisson Wolpin, “The Traditional Jew in Modern Society,” Jewish Observer 9 (February 1974): 3-7; and Nisson Wolpin, “The American Hebrew Day School Movement Comes of Age,” Jewish Observer 11 (October 1976): 3-10. 11. Nisson Wolpin, “Leaving the Fold,” Jewish Observer 11 (March 1976): 3-6. 12. Nisson Wolpin, “Who’s Saving American Jewry?,” Jewish Observer 12 (December 1977): 3. 13. Nisson Wolpin, “Jewish Women in a Torah Society,” Jewish Observer 10 (November-December 1974): 12. 14. See, for example, “Truth in Packaging,” Jewish Observer 10 (March 1975): 18-22. 15. See Nisson Wolpin, “Quo Vadis, Conservative Judaism?,” Jewish Observer 9 (October 1973): 8-11; and Nisson Wolpin, “Continuing Crisis in Israel,” Jewish Observer 7 (May 1971): 3-7. 16. See Nisson Wolpin, “The Community Kollel: Reaching Out with Torah,” Jewish Observer 14 (October 1979): 19-26. 17. See William B. Helmreich, The Yeshiva World: An Intimate Portrait of Orthodox Jewry (New Haven, 1982), 168-69. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION




RABBI J. DAVID BLEICH Rabbi Dr. Bleich is Rosh Yeshivah and Rosh Kollel Le’hora’ah at Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan and Professor of Law at Cardozo School of Law. His most recent book is Contemporary Halakhic Problems, Vol. VII, published by Koren Press. He recently spoke with Jewish Action’s Binyamin Ehrenkranz about the challenges and opportunities for Orthodox media.


inyamin Ehrenkranz: Why should there be a Jewish newspaper in 2017? Rabbi Bleich: The question is: why was there ever a need for a Jewish paper? An Orthodox Jewish press emerged sometime in the 1800s and it served to satisfy a number of purposes. Even if it had served no other need, it seemed to deter people from reading publications that were hardly edifying. There was a great deal of discussion regarding the matter in rabbinic circles—I’m hardly an expert in the history—but there was broad consensus that there were additional positive benefits as well. On the other hand, in at least two separate places, the Chofetz Chaim denigrates the reading of newspapers. He says that, in addition to everything else, reading newspapers is an absolute waste of time. I don’t think there is a contradiction between those two approaches. It depends on the circumstances. If your life centers around a small shul in Me’ah Shearim and you leave your home only to go to the beis medrash and back, you may have no need for newspapers. But if you are Rav Elyashiv and people constantly come to you for advice and guidance with regard to all manner of problems, you need to know what is transpiring in the world. I have no idea whether or not Rav Elyashiv read newspapers. But if he didn’t read them himself he assuredly had “research assistants” who read them for him and kept him abreast of current happenings. The Chofetz Chaim was on the mark. If you are speaking of people who have no need for the news then reading newspapers is a waste of time. But, if you are talking about people who are communal leaders in one sense or another,


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the relevant source is the Ralbag’s commentary on Megillas Esther. The Ralbag authored two commentaries on Tanach. They are merged into one but are clearly demarcated. One is his commentary on the text, which is often philosophical in nature, the other is what he calls the “to’iliyos,” the “benefits” or moral lessons, that can be derived. In his work on Megillas Esther Ralbag enumerates fifty-one to’iliyos. Commenting on the phrase “U’Mordechai yoshev besha’ar hamelech,”

I am quite certain that one need not read a newspaper cover to cover, but I do believe that a person who is in the position of an opinion molder has to be aware of current events . . . . We do not live in an insular enclave.

Photo: Marko Dashev,

“Mordechai sits at the gate of the king,” Ralbag notes that Mordechai spent time in the corridors of the court to inform himself of the goings-on within the palace. The to’eles that one is supposed to derive from this narrative is that a leader or manhig—Mordechai was a member of the Sanhedrin—must be aware of matters of state. What transpires in the halls of government does affect us. Clearly, Jews have to be informed, or at least some Jews must be informed. Perhaps in this day and age a majority of Jews have a need to be informed. The establishment of an Orthodox press in Europe was an attempt to produce what I would call a “name, rank and serial number” type of news reporting. It was necessary to present people with the bare-bone facts and, although I have not read the European press to any real extent, I am quite sure that there were editorial comments of one kind or another that also entered into excurses with regard to how events reported in the news columns would impact upon the Jewish community and how the community should react. That is what the Ralbag meant when he identified the benefit that can be derived from “news.” I am quite certain that one need not read a newspaper cover to cover, but I do believe that a person who is in the position of an opinion molder has to be aware of current events. Students and congregants require guidance. We do not live in an insular enclave.

I don’t read the Hamodia on a regular basis but it is my impression that the daily Hamodia fulfills that function in a quite admirable fashion. It presents basic news reports that appear to be reasonably accurate and the news columns seem to be without bias of one kind or another. That is the goal to which Jewish journalism should aspire. But other publications, including the weekend edition of Hamodia, represent a different kind of journalism. Much of the material is hortatory, designed to mold conduct. Features devoted to history, biographies, Torah topics and even fiction are also included. The rabbinic supporters of the early Jewish press in Europe also encouraged such content. BE: Are there rules of thumb that should guide an Orthodox editor with regard to putting the public interest ahead of the needs of an individual? What about the individual’s right to privacy? RJDB: The question reflects an ongoing dilemma. I do not know how any publication can operate within the parameters of Halachah without a resident posek (halachic decisor) who is thoroughly proficient in the works of the Chofetz Chaim and of those who amplified his works. A she’eilah or halachic question lurks behind every sentence published in a newspaper. We live in a cultural and moral milieu that is fundamentally antithetical to Torah values. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Unfortunately, many do not recognize that to be the case. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, a common theme of sermons was that you can be a good Jew and a good American—no contradiction. There is a contradiction! You cannot be “a good Jew” and “a good American” if by “good American” you mean not simply a patriotic citizen but one who subscribes to the melting pot theory and the ideology and value system called “Americanism.” What Hellenism was to ancient Jewry and Germanism was to nineteenth-century German Jews, American acculturation was to twentieth-century Jews in this country. The basic right to privacy is a primary example. The fundamental right that it took 175 years of constitutional jurisprudence to formulate in Griswold vs. Connecticut was always accepted as axiomatic by Halachah. And that right to privacy is far broader than any principle that American courts have ever recognized. Basically, everything that concerns the individual qua individual, his personal affairs, etc., is “private” — with exceptions. There are many exceptions, particularly with regard to matters that have no personal ramifications. There is no license to divulge a private conversation without the other party’s permission even if one is not expressly told that the communication is to be regarded as confidential unless it is necessary to divulge the imparted information for one of a number of purposes. And that is so even in the absence of any suggestion of lashon hara or rechilus. It is impossible to function in the field of journalism, certainly in the news media, without being constantly confronted with the question of what may be reported to the public at large and what may not. Yes, the exceptions are very, very broad but they must be carefully defined and precisely delineated. In America we start with the notion that a person can say whatever one likes—there is a First Amendment right of freedom of speech that is popularly, albeit erroneously, understood not simply as a limitation of government authority but as an inalienable right. People do not realize that freedom of speech is only freedom from government restraint upon speech. It is not a license. The First Amendment does not say that you are morally free to say whatever you like; it says only that the government cannot prevent you from saying what you like. But that is not an announcement of an inalienable right that a person is entitled to assert against all and sundry. The halachic touchstone is found in the recurring biblical passage “Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe leimor,” understood in rabbinic exegesis as “lo emor—do not say.” Moshe Rabbeinu would have had no right to transmit the Torah that the Ribbono Shel Olam revealed to him had the Ribbono Shel Olam not given him specific license to divulge its contents. Every communication is considered to be private, personal and proprietary. That is antithetical to the notion that a person begins with untrammeled permission to talk and may do so with impunity unless specific restraints are placed upon the exercise of that right. Halachah starts with a diametrically opposite premise. If there is no mattir (dispensation) for a particular type of speech pertaining to 48

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individuals and their affairs, such speech is proscribed even if it does not constitute lashon hara. BE: But does Halachah recognize that public figures are going to be written about, presumably for the public good? Is there a difference between a public and private act of such a public figure? RJDB: That’s the first question that a Jewish newspaper should submit to its posek. And the answer I suspect will be highly nuanced. There is no categoric difference between a public figure and a private figure. However, the distinction between public and private has a tremendous impact in terms of the exceptions to the general rule against talking about people. What somebody does in the privacy of his home or within the confines of his office is not a concern of the public at large. But what public figures do with regard to public policy and governmental affairs does have an impact upon people. Certainly, if I am called upon to vote for one of two candidates, one of whom supports pending legislation and the other opposes it, I must presume that my vote makes a difference; that is the cornerstone of the American system of government. I must know what the issues are. I have to know whom to support, who is going to advance my interests—and those of my community—and who is going to support legislation antithetical to my interests. I have to know which tailor produces a fine garment and which tailor produces a shoddy suit of clothes. Such matters are important; such information represents a to’eles. Whatever negative information that is divulged must be divulged only on the basis of knowledge, not on the basis of intuition or surmise. There must be an identifiable to’eles, not mere conjecture. Moreover, do not divulge information if it is clear that it will be ignored. The broad exception is that such information may be revealed when it is for purposes of a benefit. What public figures do or say has an impact upon me; what some private individual says does not. To that extent, to be sure, there is a distinction between private persons and public figures. A second difference lies in assumed permission to divulge. A person may give permission to divulge certain types of “personal” information that otherwise are no one’s business. Shidduchim seem to be the paradigm for discussion of this aspect of the halachos of lashon hara. In Europe, it was common for the father of a young woman to send someone to evaluate a potential son-in-law. A young man, for example, might not be the world’s greatest talmid chacham but has been paraded as a budding approximation thereof and the prospective father-in-law wishes to know if it is true. He is in no position to find out for himself, so he sends a knowledgeable rabbinic figure to do so on his behalf. The agent will engage the young man in conversation. He will be giving him a test. It is understood that the agent has absolute permission to deliver an accurate assessment, assuming that the agent has satisfied all other requisite conditions—there are a number of conditions that must be satisfied. But the agent has a right to do this because the young man has tacitly given permission for that information to be revealed. continued on p. 50

AN INTRIGUING PARALLEL By Rabbi Dr. J. David Bleich It occurred to me not long ago that a close comparison may be drawn between the prohibitions against lashon hara and American constitutional jurisprudence regarding commercial speech. The First Amendment was never regarded as providing absolute protection to commercial speech. It was never regarded as allowing someone to advertise snake oil as a panacea for cancer. The government can restrict such speech; the government can criminalize it; the government can penalize a person who engages in such speech. However, in a seminal case, Central Hudson Gas & Electric, the Supreme Court established the parameters of the restrictions that may be imposed on commercial speech. The Court did not wave a judicial wand and proclaim that when the First Amendment says Congress shall make no law with regard to the abridgment of freedom of speech, it does not mean commercial speech, because commercial speech is not “speech” and therefore Congress can impose any restriction it wishes. Instead the Supreme Court said that commercial speech is “speech” and is included in the First Amendment. However, because commercial speech is a special category of speech, the freedom of commercial speech is limited; it is not absolute. Courts read all kinds of things into constitutional texts that I cannot find there, but that is how our judiciary functions. The Court then proceeded to spell out the limited ways in which such speech may be regulated. The Court presented a list of criteria that must be satisfied to establish that a restriction placed on commercial speech is constitutionally permitted. The government may control speech designed to promote crime or fraud; misleading or fraudulent speech is not protected. But the government can restrict commercial speech only when the restriction is designed to achieve a legitimate state interest, i.e., when the state finds a to’eles. More significantly, it can restrain such speech only if the restriction it imposes is narrowly tailored to accomplish the state interest. The government cannot with one fell swoop ban all speech relating to a particular commercial matter. Not only must there be a causal relationship between the legislation and its social purpose but the legislation must permit only the least restrictive means that can achieve that purpose. If one compares the criteria for affirming restrictions that may be placed upon commercial speech with the Chofetz Chaim’s list of conditions that must be satisfied in order to speak about other people’s personal matters it turns out that Halachah restricts all speech in a manner that is the mirror image of how constitutional jurisprudence permits limitation of commercial speech. The Torah regulates all speech by means of issurim of lashon hara and rechilus with permitted exceptions that are remarkably similar to what emerges as the limitations that may constitutionally be placed on commercial speech. Speech regarding people is proscribed save for speech designed for a to’eles. Even such speech is restricted unless it will actually achieve the to’eles and the legislation is narrowly tailored to do so. The starting points are polar opposites. Halachah prohibits speech regarding people and personal matters but permits such speech when the requisite criteria are fulfilled. Constitutional jurisprudence permits all speech, even commercial speech, but bars some form of commercial speech on the basis of remarkably similar criteria. But Halachah adds a further limitation upon permitted speech. The to’eles dare not be accompanied by an admixture of any personal motive. That leads to a terrible dilemma. If one knows somebody to be a poor tailor, it is perfectly acceptable to tell another person not to patronize that tailor unless the person giving such advice also harbors a dislike for the tailor. The fact that one dislikes the tailor has nothing to do with his lack of talent as a tailor. But if the person who reveals the tailor’s lack of skill also harbors ill will against him, he is acting with “actual malice”—and that he dare not do. The result is an unavoidable predicament: A person has an obligation to prevent financial loss from occurring to another. There is an obligation to prevent the buyer from suffering damage by warning him that the tailor produces ill-fitting garments; on the other hand, since he also harbors personal animosity toward the tailor, he must be silent. But if he remains silent, he will allow a loss to ensue. How does one deal with such a dilemma? The Chofetz Chaim’s sole solution is that a person must overcome his emotions and act with only pure motives. But what if one does not succeed in overcoming one’s emotions? Ask the paper’s posek. I assume he would say “Shev v’al ta’aseh,” a person should ordinarily prefer a passive transgression to an active one. Photo: Yehoshua Halevi Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


continued from p. 48 In the modern world, the assumption is that, if an author has submitted his book for review, he anticipates that the reviewer is not going to be intellectually dishonest, which means that the reviewer is going to point out both the strengths and weaknesses of the book. On the basis of that information, the reader is then going to decide whether or not to purchase the book and/or how much weight to give to its contents. Such authorized revelations do not constitute lashon hara. The author has agreed in advance to an impartial and honest review; but it must be honest and unbiased. I need to know what the resident of the White House is thinking about immigration law or healthcare, etc. One way or another it has an impact upon me. And it is to be presumed that he has given permission for people to talk about his views and to discuss their cogency or lack thereof. Certainly, when he broadcasts them on Twitter, he is asking for as wide a dissemination of those views as he can possibly obtain. So the difference between public and personal is important but not because of the distinction per se. BE: Let’s say it is considered halachically permissible to print a certain story, is there a concern of chillul Hashem? Can one rely on the fact that once you’ve fulfilled the halachic requirements for to’eles, chillul Hashem is no longer a concern? RJDB: Chillul Hashem is the safety haven of the ignoramus. When he can’t pinpoint an aveirah, he categorizes the act as a chillul Hashem. Not everything of which I disapprove is ipso facto a chillul Hashem. The definition of chillul Hashem is a topic in and of itself. The mere fact that some people think negatively of a person who engages in a certain act does not automatically render a report of that act a chillul Hashem. Lashon hara and rechilus about alleged wrongful condct are serious enough transgressions and need not be compounded by labeling them chillul Hashem. The fact that I or others, Jews or non-Jews, disapprove of certain types of conduct does not render them a chillul Hashem. I recall being in a city which had a highly questionable eruv. Since it was a hot summer day, I walked to shul on Shabbos wearing my tallis over my jacket. I was accosted by an elderly Jew holding his own tallis bag under his arm. He stood at the corner, stared at me and exclaimed in a loud voice, “Ah chillul Hashem!” I wished him “Gut Shabbos” and otherwise ignored him. His embarrassment at a public display of religious garb or (probably mistaken) assumption that non-Jews will harbor ill will towards us if we are seen wearing the Jewish equivalent of a dashiki does not transform that behavior into a chillul Hashem. If you were to discover that a person who is muchzak u’mefursam b’chassidus (widely known as pious) has engaged in some peccadillo, publicizing that fact may well involve a matter of chillul Hashem. But if you tell me that there is a Jew out there who has committed an infraction, the transgression itself may be a chillul Hashem but publishing that fact is not necessarily an act of chillul Hashem. 50

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BE: Once a wrongdoing has been publicized, whether it’s done rightly or wrongly, do the violations of Halachah become lessened in some ways? RJDB: “Misamrei b’apei telasa—something which is said in the presence of three people—les bo mishum lishna bisha—does not constitute lashon hara.” Everyone seems to know that principle. But it does not mean what it may seem to mean. There are at least four different positions set forth by the Rishonim in defining that concept. This publication does not have the space to publish a detailed analysis of the different interpretations. But let us make it very, very brief. In the body of his classic work devoted to lashon hara, the Chofetz Chaim summarizes as black-letter law that, according to all Rishonim, it is absolutely prohibited to cause such information to be disseminated to a wider audience than would otherwise have been in possession of those facts. Intent to draw the matter to the attention of people who would otherwise have remained ignorant of that information renders the communication lashon hara per se. BE: It is often believed that publicizing cases of leadership or even rabbinic wrongdoing will help avoid more damage by the person in question. Obviously, each case is different, but when someone with moral authority is found to engage in morally questionable behavior, shouldn’t that be publicized to prevent more people from getting hurt? RJDB: Examine the Choftez Chaim’s tenaim (stipulations) as well as the constitutional law notion of least restrictive means. When addressing a situation involving someone who is in a position to do harm, it is certainly prudent to warn people who are likely to be harmed. But it is not necessary to warn people who will never have any need for the information. It is not necessary to harness the mass media in order to prevent a school from hiring a teacher or a synagogue from appointing a rabbi who is not appropriate for the position. There are other ways of accomplishing that end. There are forms of communication that do not require informing the populace at large. What is the motive of the journalists who engage in this type of reporting? Rare is the publication directed by tzaddikim concerned solely for the welfare of the community. Usually, the motive is to sell copies. That is definitely an example of impure motivation that Chofetz Chaim says must be purged before one can take action for to’eles. BE: What about the so-called gedolim genre, the type of work where the author has to decide whether to gloss over foibles or to report them in a sincere and responsible way? RJDB: Reporting foibles for the sake of reporting foibles serves no constructive purpose. Even though these people are not alive and such reports may not fall into the category of lashon hara, there are other serious issurim. Not long ago, somebody alleged that a certain rabbinic personality who is no longer living was no great genius; he was a man of average intelligence. In context, the purpose was to teach students that one does not have to be a genius to be a gadol b’Yisrael. That is certainly a to’eles; I understand the rationale for

telling this to a group of talmidim. But what is the purpose of imparting this information to all and sundry? What is the point of informing everyone that Rabbi X had only mediocre talent? No point whatsoever. BE: Is there any halachic basis for omitting photographs or other images of modestly dressed women? That’s a convention amongst a certain subset of publications today. RJDB: I do not know what the prohibition might be. Maybe I am missing something, but I do not think that an appropriate photograph appearing in a newspaper arouses prurient interest. It is my impression that such photographs did appear on occasion in Orthodox European publications. I presume that the people who do not want to publish tasteful photographs are making business decisions rather than halachic ones. They do not want to be boycotted. But I do not see a cogent reason for objection to modest pictures. BE: What do you believe Orthodox publications should be doing that they are currently not doing, or perhaps not doing sufficiently? RJDB: They should be presenting serious hashkafah (Jewish thought)—not “pop hashkafah”—history, biographies as well as “recreational” talmud Torah. If you want people to read an article, it must appeal to their interest and focus on a topic that engages them. The topics do not necessarily have to have a practical application. To give an innocuous example: The late Louis Rainbowitz used to write a column in The Jerusalem Post on the flora and fauna of Scripture. It was hardly the most significant or most pressing topic. But he was an excellent writer and he succeeded in making the subject interesting. The column appeared for years on a weekly basis and must have appealed to readers. That is what I would term “recreational.” That is an area in which the media are uniquely capable and can produce material that will be edifying and also provide talmud Torah l’rabbim, Torah education for all. BE: How does one publish “recreational Talmud Torah” and avoid pitfalls? RJDB: I think one should exclude areas in which there are serious issues that are either complex, unclarified or in which there exists a significant difference of opinion. A popular publication is not the forum to discuss the intricacies of an eruv in a major metropolitan area. That subject is much too technical and complicated. There are indeed genuine differences of opinion with regard to some points. Differences of opinion aired in the media often acquire the tone of a debate. And everyone likes a debate. But debates are not a classic mode of talmud Torah for good reason. Debates center on the debaters who then seek to score debater’s points. That is not Torah lishmah (Torah for its own sake). That does not mean that you have to present all matters as univocal. Studied, dispassionate presentations of differing views are one thing

and debates are quite another. Halachah is not entertainment. It may be entertaining, but it’s not entertainment. BE: What else might today’s Orthodox journalists and their audiences keep in mind? RJDB: Misinformation and skewered values are ubiquitous and widely disseminated. The need of the hour is availability of reliable information addressed to any and all, the highly educated and the less educated, presented in language and form comprehensible to the individual reader. Most importantly, the information and values must be unadulterated and uncompromised. Torah-focused media are uniquely positioned to further this goal. Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation 1. Publication Title: Jewish Action. 2. Publication No. 005-239. 3. Filing Date: November 15, 2017. 4. Issue Frequency: Quarterly and Passover. 5. No. of Issues Published Annually: Five. 6. Annual Subscription Price: $16.00. 7. Complete Mailing Address of Known Office of Publication: Orthodox Union, 11 Broadway, NY, NY, 10004. Contact Person: Anthony Lugo Telephone: 212.613.8163 8. Complete Mailing Address of Headquarters or General Business Office of Publisher: Same. 9. Full Names and Complete Mailing Addresses of Publisher, Editor and Managing Editor: Publisher: Orthodox Union, 11 Broadway, NY, NY, 10004. Editor: Nechama Carmel, 11 Broadway, NY, NY, 10004. Managing Editor: Gary Magder, 11 Broadway, NY, NY, 10004. 10. Owner: Orthodox Union, 11 Broadway, NY, NY, 10004. 11. Known Bondholders, Mortgagees, and Other Security Holders Owning or Holding 1 Percent or More of Total Amount of Bonds: None. 12. Tax Status (For completion by nonprofit organizations authorized to mail at nonprofit rates): The purpose, function, and nonprofit status of this organization and the exempt status for federal income purposes has not changed during the preceding 12 months. 13. Publication Title: Jewish Action. 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below: October 2017.

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Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months

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(1) Paid/Requested Outside-Country Mail Subscriptions Stated on Form 3541 (2) Paid In-Country Subscriptions Stated on Form 3541 (3) Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and Other Non-USPS Paid Distribution (4) Other Classes Paid Through the USPS c. Total Paid and/or Requested Circulation [Sum of 15b. (1), (2), (3), and (4)]













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8,542 8,542

8,645 8,645



d. Free Distribution by Mail (1) Outside Country as Stated on Form 3541 (2) In-Country as Stated on Form 3541 (3) Other Classes Mailed Through the USPS (4) Free Distribution Outside the Mail e. Total Free Distribution [Sum of 15d (1), (2), (3) and (4) f. Total Distribution [Sum of 15c. And 15e.) g. Copies Not Distributed h. Total [Sum of 15f. And g.] i. Percent Paid [15c. divided by 15f. times 100]



58,764 84

58,399 87

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Copyright by Alexander Gallery (ATV Gallery INC).

The True Power of the Jewish Woman W By Faigy Grunfeld

In the millennia-long struggle against assimilation, Jewish women exhibited remarkable spiritual strength 52

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e all know of the great contributions to Jewish continuity made by Torah scholars over the ages. The vast reservoir of commentaries and halachic works added to the canon of Jewish literature over the past 2,000 years is astonishing in its scope and breadth, particularly against the backdrop of Jewish suffering and persecution. But while men tended to study in the great yeshivah centers, women were often weaving Torah values and ideals into the fabric of their homes. And most

amazingly, the Jewish woman, referred to in the historical literature as “stubborn and zealous,” exhibited remarkable spiritual strength in the millennia-long struggle against assimilation. “STUBBORN AND ZEALOUS” The Jewish woman holds a unique place in the history of Jewish martyrdom, a phenomenon as old as the exile itself. Note, for example, the following incident related by the Talmud (Gittin 57b): Four hundred Judean youths were enslaved by the Romans for immoral uses and transported by ship to their destination. The young men onboard deliberated whether those who drown themselves will attain the World to Come and merit resurrection. They concluded in the affirmative, based on Proverbs: “And I shall restore from the depths of the sea” (68:23). The girls, upon hearing this, did not linger. They threw themselves into the waters below. Upon witnessing this, the young men said: “If for these [women] for whom [self-sacrifice] is a natural act, shall not we, for whom it is unnatural?” And so they too threw themselves into the sea. The annals of Jewish history are laden with tales of Jewish women who sacrificed their lives for Torah while influencing others to do the same. When faced with choosing death or a life that entailed abandoning the Torah, women have led the way down the path of self-sacrifice. Christianity’s ongoing conflict with Judaism resulted in all manner of persecution, most noteworthy of which are perhaps the Crusades. The various historical records of the period, such as Mainz Anonymous, Sefer Zechirah and The Chronicles of Shlomo Bar Shimshon document the suffering of medieval Jewry during this era, noting how the women often set the tone for how to respond to these atrocities. Chronicles from the Crusade-era document various incidents of women overcoming their maternal instinct and slaughtering their own children to save them from Christian monasteries. Some medieval prayer books printed the benediction for when one sacrifices oneself and one’s child to sanctify God’s Name. Mainz Anonymous, written in Hebrew, describes how when the rampaging soldiers ripped up the Torah scrolls in the German community of Mainz, the women cried out in devastation, and only then, “when the men heard the words of these pious women, they were moved with zeal for the Lord, our God, and for His holy and precious Torah,”1 causing them to tear keriah. Crusade chronicles also detail women throwing rocks at the enemy to delay their approach, so the other women could complete the killing of the children. Christian sources from the period verify such incidents, and note how women were the great obstacle to conversion to Christianity.2 Similar frustration is echoed by the malicious executors of the Spanish Inquisition, who found

A Woman’s Bravery The following excerpt is from one of the three Hebrew chronicles of the First Crusade. Its writer, Shlomo Bar Shimshon, wrote this collection of accounts in 1140 in the city of Mainz, although his writings include tales from the massacres in Speyer and Worms as well. There was a distinguished young woman named Rachel, daughter of Yitzchak, son of Asher, who said to her friend: “Four children have I. Have no mercy on them either, lest those uncircumcised ones come and seize them alive and raise them in their ways of error. In my children too, shall you sanctify the Holy Name of God.” One of her friends came and took the knife. When Rachel saw the knife, she cried loudly and bitterly and smote her face, crying and saying: “‘Where is Your Grace, O Master?” [The friend] took Rachel’s little son Yitzchak, who was a delightful boy, and slaughtered him. Rachel spread her sleeves between the two brothers and said to her friend: “Upon your life do not slaughter Yitzchak before Aaron.” The lad Aaron, upon seeing that his brother had been slaughtered, cried, “Mother, Mother, do not slaughter me,” and he fled, hiding under a box. Rachel then took her two daughters, Bella and Madrona . . . they extended their throats, and the mother sacrificed them to the Master, God, who commanded us not to depart from His pure doctrine and to remain wholehearted with Him. When the pious woman had completed sacrificing three of her children to our Creator, she raised her voice and called to her son Aaron: “Aaron, where are you? I will not spare you either or have mercy on you.” She drew him out by his feet from under the box where he had hidden, and slaughtered him before the Exalted and Lofty God. Rachel then placed them in her two sleeves, two children on one side, and two on the other. [The Crusaders] said to her, “Show us the money you have in your sleeves.” But when they saw the slaughtered children, they smote and killed her upon them. From “The Chronicles of Shlomo Bar Shimshon,” The Jews and the Crusaders: The Hebrew Chronicles of the First and Second Crusades, ed. and trans. Shlomo Eidelberg, (Hoboken, New Jersey, 1977), 35-36.

Faigy Grunfeld teaches English and history. She lives in Detroit, Michigan with her family. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Similar frustration is echoed by the malicious executors of the Spanish Inquisition, who found Jewish women to be stubborn and intractable, preventing widespread conversion. women to be stubborn and intractable, preventing widespread conversion. Much of the documentation from the period focuses on the issue of women conversos who actively taught and practiced the Jewish religion and could not be swayed to abandon their faith. Shabbos and kashrut were observed by women living in the shadow of the feared Inquisition, and historical records describe the countless machinations of these brave women who attempted to maintain dietary laws despite the presence of keen-eyed servants and neighbors. Documents tell of women who claimed “the cat” ran off with the gid hanasheh (sciatic nerve) while they were dissecting the animal, and of other subterfuge, like swapping a piece of pork purchased by a servant with cow meat. Trial transcripts include the testimony of servants who describe how a fatty piece of meat would disappear and reappear looking unfamiliar and lean.3 Victor von Karben, a former German rabbi who converted to Christianity in 1477, similarly decries the female “infantile behavior” that prevented Jews from converting en masse. His own wife and daughters refused to convert with him, clearly influencing his writing, but he speaks broadly about Jewish women as the “pesky, zealous gender,” taking the lead in jumping into the flames or hanging themselves when forced to convert.4 Women who refused to convert alongside their husbands suffered a double tragedy, as now they had the status of an agunah. Such incidents are recorded in the rabbinic responsa of the era.5 CLINGING TO TRADITION As the world evolved, replacing Christian fervor with Enlightenment ideals, a new threat accosted the Jewish community. The spirit of reform and the scent of Haskalah encroached upon the Jewish ghetto walls. Often, the Jewish woman’s deep faith and conviction played a role in arresting assimilation’s advancement in her home and community. Professor Marion Kaplan, a professor of Jewish history at New York University, surveyed Jewish women in nineteenth-century Germany, and found that they “remained the guardians of tradition in a period in which German Jews 54

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were undergoing a variety of processes of adaptation.”6 As men eagerly shed their Judaism for greater social acceptance, many of their wives clung to ancient customs. Kaplan notes, through the lens of countless diaries and memoirs, that women ensured their homes were cleaned for Pesach, Shabbat foods were cooked, and holidays observed, while their male counterparts continued to strip down each of these experiences to their bare bones. Even assimilated Jews record their mothers or wives maintaining kashrut standards in their homes, or at least a taste of tradition, despite the overall lack of observance. Psychologist Sigmund Freud’s son wrote about his grandmother: On Saturdays we used to hear her singing Jewish prayers in a small but firm and melodious voice. All of this, strangely enough in a Jewish family, seemed alien to us children who had been brought up without any instruction in Jewish ritual.7 One woman’s memoir notes how her mother fasted on Yom Kippur and spent the whole day in the synagogue while her father would eat a large meal, after which he would joke, “after a hearty breakfast, it is easier to fast.”8 Kaplan notes how conversion and intermarriage stats highly favor Jewish men over women, and when women did intermarry, economic necessity was a primary factor. The variety of women’s charity groups and associations helped create an insular and supportive network for Jewish women, as well as the social reality that women had little to no economic or political clout; however, the resistance to acculturation can also be attributed to spiritual strength and fortitude. The erosion of religious life among nineteenth-century German Jews is a tragic tale, one that was echoed by Jewish American immigrants in the twentieth century. Despite efforts to stem the tide of assimilation, historic Jewish communities floundered and drowned under the crashing waves of freedom and opportunity. Very often, the women’s efforts to maintain religious standards had little impact. At the same time, there were Jewish women who succumbed to assimilation. In Eastern Europe, young women were rapidly joining secular ideological groups and abandoning tradition in droves. Many were drawn to assimilation because of its looser gender roles and promises of equality. First-generation female immigrants to America managed to sustain tradition because their husbands were often economically mobile, ensuring that the wives could remain at home and serve the family as a balabusta (which entailed frugal spending and meticulous housekeeping). But daughters were often sent to work in factories, and this provided a newfound autonomy for these secondgeneration women. Although they often handed over their earnings to their families, a small amount was kept for their own use, which went towards the entertainments of the day—dance halls, amusement parks and theaters. Young girls often shrugged off parental ideas of courtship, confident that they were capable of making their own match. And thus the story of Jewish women and religion

in America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is no better than that of the men.9 One of the dominant themes in Jewish female writings during the Haskalah period is regret. The following letter written by Rebecca Samuels in 1791 perhaps sums up the sentiments of many women during the evolving period of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. At first she describes the thrill of newfound freedoms in Virginia: You cannot imagine what kind of Jews they have here! . . . One can make a good living and all live in peace. Anyone can do what he wants. There is no rabbi in all of America to excommunicate anyone. This is a blessing here; Jew and Gentile are as one. There is no galus here.10 Yet this subsequent letter expresses an entirely different sentiment: I hope my letter will ease your mind. . . The whole reason why we are leaving this place is because of lack of Yiddishkeit . . . I know quite well you will not want me to bring up my children like Gentiles. And here they cannot become anything else. Here the shochet goes to the market, buys treif meat and then brings it home. On Rosh Hashanah the people here worshipped without even one sefer Torah . . . You can believe me that I crave to see a synagogue to which I can go. The way we live now is no life at all. We do not know what Shabbos and yom tov are. On Shabbos all the Jewish shops are open.11 Pauline Wengeroff ’s memoirs echo a similar disillusionment with what began as an enthusiasm for modernity. A Russian woman living through the turbulence of nineteenth-century Haskalah, Pauline tells a tragic tale of a family infected with the deadly virus that ensured its demise, in the book Rememberings. And like many of her sisters, Pauline became a silent bystander. Pauline, formerly “Pessele” (Epstein) Wengeroff, describes her childhood home and the religious fervor of her parents: At our house, the time of day was referred to by the names of the three daily services: the morning was called “before or after davenen”; the afternoon was called “before or after mincheh”; dusk was “between mincheh and ma’ariv”12. . . . Of what importance was the life of the individual except as fruitful ground for Talmud study? Like his ancestors, my father dedicated himself faithfully to study and to the service of God . . .13 My pious mother was very exacting in the fulfillment of every regulation . . . [when checking food for bugs] she gave a prize for every worm the women found. She lived in fear that their search would not be meticulous enough.14 Interestingly, Pauline depicts her mother as the more religiously zealous parent, despite her father’s deep-seated religious convictions. The pivotal moment in her story is when the enigmatic Dr. Max Lilienthal visited Eastern Europe with his notions of secular education and German literature. While the men in Pauline’s family, even her father, hurried to welcome this novel figure who would help to uplift poverty-stricken Jewish communities, only her mother foresaw the danger, tragically foreshadowing the demise of their simple lifestyle: But my mother’s eyes were sharper. She saw more deeply, as was confirmed in the end.15 The day after their visit with Dr. Lilienthal, my brothers-in-law are sitting thoughtfully together in their study.

Well past the days of the Inquisition and the Crusades and into the twentieth century, Jews continued to die al kiddush Hashem, giving up their lives to sanctify God’s Name. Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, a young rabbi in the Kovno Ghetto, meticulously recorded the she’eilot of Lithuanian Jews as well as his teshuvot during the horrifying years between 1941 and 1945. He wrote the following responsa on the terrifying day of the “Great Action,” when all the Jews of the Ghetto were being rounded up. In a single day, the Nazis shot around 10,000 Jews. At this gathering, Rabbi Eliyahu of Warsaw, Hy”d, approached me . . . and since he knew that a large number of those standing on this field would perish . . . he asked me what the text is for the blessing to be recited by those who sanctify His Name—is it “al Kiddush Hashem” or “lekadesh et Hashem”? He told me that he was asking for himself, if it would come to that, chas veshalom, and in addition he wanted to fulfill a mitzvah, perhaps the last in his life, by teaching those selected for death how to make the blessing according to the law. Teshuvah: Sefer Yosef Ometz (483) records the text that those who sanctify God’s Name recite, which Rabbi Asher of Frankfurt, who sanctified God’s Name, recited: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sanctified us through His commandments, and has commanded us to love His honored and awesome Name, which was, is, and will be, with all our hearts and all our souls, and to sanctify His Name among the multitudes. Blessed are You, Lord, who sanctifies Your Name among the multitudes.” . . . The Shelah (Sha’ar HaOtiyot 1) writes that one should recite the following: “Blessed are You, Lord [ . . . ] who sanctified us through His commandments, and has commanded us to sanctify His Name” . . . I instructed him that in my opinion one should recite the version of the Shelah, and this is how I intended to make the blessing as well. The Kadosh Rabbi Eliyahu, Hy”d, repeated this text and taught it to others so that it would be fluent in their mouths, so that if their time to die the death of holy ones arrived, chas veshalom, they would know how to make the blessing. This Kadosh then reported to me that Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, Hy”d, also instructed his son, Rabbi Naftali, Hy”d, who was also present, to make the blessing following the Shelah, transmitting this in the name of our master the Chofetz Chaim . . . From Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, She’eilot U’Teshuvot MiMa’amakim (2:4). Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Pessele may have been raised in a pious, insular home, but by the end of her life, a number of her children converted to Christianity. “We’ll find the books,” says the elder eagerly. “We’ve just got to be very careful. Sneak the work into our Talmud time. But don’t let the parents catch on” . . . A careful observer might often spot a volume of Schiller or Zschokke inside the Talmud folio . . . One morning in the memorable summer of 1842 my brothers-in-law fetched their new books from their hiding place, never dreaming that they could be overheard, and laid them on their open Talmud. Together with their friend Reb Herschel, a melamed from Orlo and a brilliant man with great knowledge of Talmud in his own right, they began a loud debate about a sentence in Schiller’s Don Carlos. As a precaution in case of interruption, they were reading and disputing in their accustomed Talmudic sing-song. But my mother had been watching them with a sharp and troubled eye. Ghosts had been haunting her since Dr. Lilienthal’s visit. She was convinced that a foreign element had moved into her house and that it would make the study of God’s word secondary. To reassure herself, she decided to go to the young people’s study. At the bottom of the stairs she paused to listen and then went up joyfully, to the encouraging sounds of learning from above. How they were studying! But when she pressed her ear to the door and paid closer attention she was seized with horror. A terrible expression of anger and disappointment distorted her features. Instead of “amar Abbaye,” all she could hear was “Marquis de Posa,”“the Duke of Alba,” and other sinful trash.16 The rest of the tale is a tragic, predictable, prevalent one for nineteenth-century Jewry. Pessele/Pauline may have been raised in a pious, insular home, but by the end of her life, a number of her children converted to Christianity. Pauline personifies the terrible error of her generation; she represents the men and women who, in their haste to educate and improve their children’s lives, failed to maintain high Jewish standards: We strove to see that our children would have what we had missed. But unfortunately, in our great enthusiasm we forgot the ultimate goal and the wisdom of restraint. It is our fault that a chasm opened between us and our children.17 While this article highlights the extreme reactions Jewish women have had to assimilation—self-sacrifice on the one 56

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hand and self-destruction on the other, prior to modern times most Jewish women exhibited tremendous mesirut nefesh for Torah. There was the medieval woman who sold all her jewelry to buy sefarim;18 the Early Modern woman who sent her boys ages eight and nine to a far-off city so they could study in the great Torah center of the era;19 and the shtetl wife who gave up on all material comforts to pay for her son’s melamed. Jewish women throughout history engaged in acts of self-sacrifice to ensure their children would carry on the mesorah. Through their quiet acts of devotion, they remained ever-vigilant against the great existential threats to Jewish survival. Notes 1. “Narratives of the Old Persecution/Mainz Anonymous,” The Jews and the Crusaders: The Hebrew Chronicles of the First and Second Crusades, ed. and trans. Shlomo Eidelberg (Hoboken, New Jersey, 1977), 113. 2. Avraham Grossman, Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe (Waltham, Massachusetts, 2004), 202. 3. Renee Levine Melammed, “Conversas,” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, Jewish Women’s Archive, 4. Grossman, 203. 5. Ibid., 205. 6. Marion Kaplan, “Tradition and Transition: Jewish Women in Imperial Germany,” Jewish Women in Historical Perspective (Detroit, 1991), 202. 7. David Aberbach, “Freud’s Jewish Problem,” Commentary, June 1, 1980. 8. Kaplan, 207. 9. Paula E. Hyman, “Eastern European Immigrants in the United States,” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, Jewish Women’s Archive, jwa. org/encyclopedia/article/eastern-european-immigrantsin-united-states. 10. Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology, ed. Jules Chametzky et al. (New York, 2001), 38-39. 11. Ibid., 38-39. 12. Pauline Wengeroff, Rememberings: The World of a Russian-Jewish Woman in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Henry Wenkart (Potomac, MD, 2000), 3. 13. Ibid., 4. 14. Ibid., 7. 15. Ibid., 74. 16. Ibid., 76. 17. Ibid., xiv. 18. Sefer Chassidim 19. Emily Taitz, et al., The JPS Guide to Jewish Women (Philadelphia, PA, 2003).

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Friday the Rabbi Got Hijacked By Rabbi Chaim Feuerman, z”l, as told to Ruchama Feuerman

In September 1970, a TWA plane carrying Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, rosh yeshivah of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, was hijacked to Jordan. It made headlines everywhere. Ten years later, on Friday, January 25, 1980, Rabbi Chaim Feuerman, z”l, was on Delta Flight 1116 that was hijacked to Cuba. (Coincidentally, Rabbi Feuerman also happened to have studied at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin under Rabbi Hutner.) There was little publicity about this hijacking, save for an article published in the Staten Island Advance. Rabbi Feuerman kept a journal of the eighteen-hour ordeal. The story below, written by his daughter-in-law, the well-known novelist Ruchama Feuerman, is based on information culled from the journal as well as from the article in the Staten Island Advance, dated January 29, 1980.

Editor's Note: While working on this article, we were saddened to hear of the passing of Rabbi Chaim Feuerman, EdD. Rabbi Feuerman was a Jewish educator for over six decades, and served as a professor of education at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration in New York. A master educator, he influenced students and educators throughout the country.


JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017


t was January 24, a Thursday night, and I was on a Delta plane coming back from a Jewish education conference in Charleston, South Carolina. I was scheduled to land in JFK Airport at 2:50 am. (I was eager to make it back in time for the early minyan, because it was the yahrtzeit of my father, of blessed memory.) At one point I sensed something was amiss on the plane. It should have begun to descend but it was still cruising. Ten minutes later, the plane was still cruising. The stewardess was going from passenger to passenger saying something that I couldn’t hear. She had a smile on her face and her arms folded. She came up to me, still with a smile, and I said to her, before she could open her mouth, “I always wanted to go to Cuba.” She stared at me, astonished. How did I know in advance? She had a phony smile pasted on her face. I thought, This kid is scared out of her wits. She’s going to Cuba. The time was approaching when I might have to make decisions and be alert and strong. So I did what I always do when big things are in the works: I took a nap. When I awoke, I thought, Better learn the laws of reciting the Shema prayer, which I did from my Derech Chaim siddur. I napped and learned intermittently. Various people came up to me and asked me to pray

for them. (I must’ve stood out as the resident rabbi in my long beard, black jacket and hat.) It was amazing how many of the passengers were Jewish, but I hadn’t realized until they asked me to daven for them. I tried to reassure them. I didn’t feel terribly scared myself. Why? Because I had had a very secure childhood—my mother and grandmother had always taken care of me. So I thought that’s the way things naturally go. You’re always taken care of. I imagined calling my wife Chanaleh before she left for work. “You’re going to think I’m kidding, but . . .” She would have to explain why Rabbi Feuerman couldn’t attend the Lazarus bar mitzvah on Motzaei Shabbat. Some lame-sounding excuse about her husband getting hijacked to Cuba. The hijacker, an African American who was holding the crew at bay with a .22-caliber pistol, had his wife and two young children with him. (He’d hidden the gun in his baby's diaper.) He told the captain: “If you don’t take me to Cuba, I’ll blow up the plane.” He said he’d planted a bomb on the plane. The stewardesses tended to the passengers (there were sixty-five people onboard), trying to appear calm, but their body language projected fear. I guess they didn’t have a Bubby and mother like I had. Besides, they were just kids themselves. Every now and then the captain would make an announcement in his reassuring Southern drawl. He asked us to use as few lights as possible and smoke as little as possible to conserve power and oxygen. At 5:00 am we landed in Havana, in a far-flung corner of the airport. It was still dark, too early for Morning Prayers. Chanaleh wasn’t even up yet, and so she had no reason to be nervous. The tension was mounting on the plane, though. A diabetic woman without insulin fainted. A pregnant woman felt very sick. There were no physicians or nurses around. Meanwhile, the babies had run out of diapers. There was no milk left for baby bottles, no water left to rinse the bottles out. A drunken firstclass passenger was cavorting around until a steward snapped at him, “Sit

down and stay down if you don’t want to get shot!” From outside, I saw bright headlights facing us, and I said to myself, “Wait a minute, we are going to Tehran.” What made me guess that? I believed that the lights were a plane or a truck that was refueling the plane. What did we need fuel for? Where were we going? It had to be Tehran, a popular hijacking spot. In fact, that’s where the plane was supposed to go next. When dawn trickled in, I performed my morning ablutions and davened. I was sorry I had missed Kaddish for my father’s yahrtzeit, but God exempts us from obligations we can’t perform for reasons beyond our control. (If ever a situation qualified as “beyond my control,” this was it.) But at least I had my yahrtzeit candle with me, though I wondered when I’d be allowed to light it. My more pressing concern though was Shabbat. A man came over to me while I prayed, and said “Shalom” and kissed my tallit. I invited him to pray with me but he smiled and declined. A physician was allowed to meet the diabetic passenger, who deplaned. That was somewhat reassuring. I figured the hijacker couldn’t be completely insane or ruthless. In fact, he struck me as affectionate, with a certain charm. It was beautiful outside. I would’ve loved to take a walk. At 8:20 am, the captain said in his easygoing way, “Things are workin’ slowly. Just relax and have another cup of coffee n’ we’ll let ya’all know as soon as we hear anything.” (There was no water or ice left.) Whenever the captain spoke to us, it had a strangely calming effect. I’ve always been a big proponent of softspokenness and of clear, slow, lucid speech; and indeed, it was his voice that kept everyone calm, and prevented people from losing their heads. Should I tell the captain about my Shabbat problem? The thought floated through my mind but I immediately nixed it. He had enough to deal with. I thought of the Israelites in the desert, wailing, “What will we drink?” They were held culpable because at that moment they still had water in their Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION



Rabbi Chaim Feuerman, then dean of the Jewish Foundation School in Staten Island, New York, tells the story of his hijacking to his students a few days after the incident. Photo: Barry G. Schwartz

At 10:35 am, the captain said hopefully it wouldn’t be too much longer. I don’t remember when I last felt so utterly in the hands of the Holy One, blessed be He. canteens (Chiddushei HaRim). I wasn’t thirsty yet or hungry and Shabbat was still hours away, so there was no reason, I told myself, to get hot under the collar. At least not yet. I peered outside and saw men with rifles guarding the plane and wondered if there was a Russian-Cuban tie-in. Was it ten years earlier that Rav Hutner had been hijacked to Amman, Jordan? The details came back to me. It’s not that often that one’s rosh yeshivah gets hijacked. It happened 60

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in September 1970. The Palestinian Liberation Front took control of the TWA plane. Rav Hutner had his wife, daughter and son-in-law, my old chavruta, Yonasan David, with him. The ordeal lasted many days. “His” hijacking felt far more harrowing than whatever we were going through, I told myself, and tried to relax. I studied from my Derech Chaim siddur about the laws recited before studying a sacred text. At 8:50 am, the captain came out of

the cockpit. He was shaking his head, saying, “No good.” I think he was commenting on the food situation because shortly after, a stewardess found some rolls, butter and things to nibble on, orange juice, too. At 8:55 am the captain informed us that if the hijacker got what he wanted, another plane, he would release us unharmed. Unbeknownst to the passengers, the captain had told the hijacker: “This plane wasn’t built for such long-distance travel. It’s only built for domestic travel and if you want us to go to Tehran, we need to have a different plane.” Fortunately, the hijacker bought it. The captain then radioed Atlanta to send a different plane that would send us to Tehran. It was only a stalling tactic but it worked. At 9:45 am the stewardess gave me a Delta Airlines customer information form: “We apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced. Please complete this form and return to passenger agent.” Inconvenience? I completed the form and hoped to see that passenger agent at JFK soon.

Outside, another Cuban soldier with a walkie-talkie strolled by. Snacks (all nonkosher) made their way onto the plane. At 10:35 am, the captain said hopefully it wouldn’t be too much longer. I don’t remember when I last felt so utterly in the hands of the Holy One, blessed be He. A passenger asked me, “Do you think we will spend Shabbat here?” I quipped, “I always wanted to spend Shabbat in Cuba, but just wasn’t counting on this one.” More inaction. More delays and stalling. At 12:30 pm, a stewardess came by holding one of the hijacker’s babies. She fleshed out more information about the hijacker. He was an unemployed accountant, a Muslim, alienated and frustrated. He wanted Iran— not Delta Airlines—to send him a plane. He wanted to speak with the news media to express his political views, one of which was: all African Americans in the United States should leave the country. He had the ashes of his sister with him, which he wanted to scatter over Mecca. His wife said that his mother in Atlanta was extremely ill, and if she found out what he was doing, she could die. But the hijacker said that he was in it and he wasn’t going to back down now. He wanted his wife and children to go with him to Tehran. His wife appeared to be about twenty-two years old. At this point I started to doubt if there really was a bomb. The hijacker had been non-violent and calm so far. I didn’t think he’d carry out his threat. However, he seemed unpredictable. I surmised that if he had had an opportunity to express his views to the media, he might have changed courses a bit, since the boil would’ve been lanced, so to speak. But that didn’t happen. I saw the captain come out of the cockpit and walk down the aisle. He was strolling around the plane, nodding and mumbling. In fact he was whispering to each passenger, “We’re goin’ to leave the plane. One at a time. Casual-like.” The plan was to escape through a dumbwaiter in the middle of the plane, normally used to transport food. In this way, we would exit, one at a time, women and children first. He did another clever thing. If the hijacker would notice there were no women on the plane, he would realize something was up. He told any woman who happened to be wearing a wig (no, there weren’t any frum women on the plane) to give it to the men. A few men donned wigs and turned their backs to the cockpit, so that to the hijacker looking out from the cockpit, they appeared to be women. At 2:00 pm the plan went into effect. Everyone crept out via the dumbwaiter—women and children first— until finally there was one passenger and myself left. The hijacker didn’t notice anything. I couldn’t take my hat, coat or luggage, including my tallit and tefillin, because others thought it might endanger our escape.

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I was able to tuck my siddur into my pocket, though. With a grandiose motion of my hand, I invited the last guy to get into the dumbwaiter. And he, in response to my magnanimity, motioned for me to go. Finally the guy said, “Neither of us will make it off the plane.” He got into the dumbwaiter and I was the last one. Or maybe I jumped first and he was the last one. I’m not sure. The dumbwaiter didn’t go all the way to the ground. It stopped mid-air so we had to jump. There was a truck waiting for us and it hustled us all away. Everyone was relieved, if not ebullient. The passengers called out to me, “You prayed well, rabbi!” But for me it wasn’t over. I was in Cuba and Shabbat was coming. Also, I desperately wanted Chanaleh to know I was safe. The Cubans treated us courteously, even though the country had a hostile relationship with the United States. All the passengers were offered mango juice, water, and hamand-cheese sandwiches. I politely declined the sandwich, as did the Muslim passengers who had been on the plane. Some passengers bought liquor and cigars. Meanwhile, as everyone was eating in the airport, the hijacker discovered that we had escaped. He was furious. He jammed his gun into the belly of the captain and commanded him to take off. The captain cooperated, but the Cubans would not release the plane. The jig was up and the hijacker was overpowered. He and his family were taken into custody.

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An anchor from ABC News in Havana called in and wanted to speak to a certain passenger, and by accident, I was given the phone. The anchor let me know he was Jewish, too. He promised me he would call Chanaleh, and wrote down her phone number. Providence took care of my chief concern, which was reaching my wife. And Shabbat was getting closer. A friendly English-speaking representative of the Cuban government tried to put us all at ease. I asked her, “Soon it will be my Sabbath. Can you send me back to the States after the Sabbath ends?” She assured me it would be fine. “We’ll send you on a sea plane.” Other passengers cautioned me in a whisper, “If you spend one Sabbath here, you’ll end up spending many Sabbaths here.” Someone else warned me, “Don’t be fooled by the rep’s American accent. She’s Cuban and it’s no good.” I turned to the captain, “It’s going to be Shabbat soon. Do you think we’ll be in Miami before sundown?” “Raaabi,” he drawled, “I’m gonna fly that plane just as faaast as I can.” And once again the captain valiantly delivered, and we arrived at the airport in Miami at candle lighting time. The stewardess said to me as we disembarked, “Rabbi, it was a pleasure being in a hijacking with you.” I felt the same way. The crew had acted superbly. The stewardesses, even though they had been terrified themselves, had comforted passengers, held babies and told stories to the children. Immediately, I was whisked away to a hotel at the airport. I had a few cans of mango juice with me and bags of peanuts, and that’s what I ate for the whole of Shabbat. I was a prisoner in that room for twenty-five hours because if you left the room, the door automatically locked electronically. So I just stayed in the room with my seven cans of mango juice. I prayed with my siddur, studied the laws in it and drank mango juice. After Shabbat, there was that Lazarus bar mitzvah I wanted to attend in Far Rockaway—the bar mitzvah boy was one of my students. In those days, airport security was pretty weak. So I just hopped on a plane, arrived at JFK Airport and got over to the Washington Hotel. Everyone was dancing in a circle around the bar mitzvah boy, and I joined in. It was a fitting end to the whole ordeal. The hijacking didn’t make headlines the way Rav Hutner’s hijacking had. In fact, the whole event passed pretty quickly from my mind, although my sons were rather thrilled to hear the tale. I did resolve to say the Wayfarer’s Blessing with more concentration in the future. The simple meaning of the words of the prayer stood out starkly for me: May it be Your will . . . that You should lead us in peace and direct our steps in peace, and guide us in peace, and support us in peace, and cause us to reach our destination in life, joy, and peace. Save us from every enemy and ambush, from robbers and wild beasts on the trip, and from all kinds of punishments that rage and come to the world . . . . ”

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JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017


Beyond Management

Professionalizing the Jewish Nonprofit World By Rachel Wizenfeld

Jewish organizations, from AIPAC to Lakewood’s Beth Medrash Govoha, are implementing cutting-edge corporate management techniques in unprecedented ways.


eing heimish is no longer cutting it. For years, many Jewish organizations were able to survive—and even thrive— as long as they could prove to the community that they provided a necessary service or benefit—whether it was delivering food for the needy, offering a place to daven or providing a quality day school education. Classic business ideas of management systems or metrics and data tracking didn’t seem relevant to these institutions doing the hallowed work of sustaining the community. That’s no longer the case.

As the Jewish community’s needs become more wide-ranging and complex, as funding opportunities become tighter, and as lay leaders who are highly trained professionals in diverse fields demand that their schools, shuls and chesed organizations display the same sophistication they see at work, Jewish nonprofits are being forced to tighten their ships and professionalize. “For many years, the frum community operated like a mom-and-pop shop, with each small community taking care of itself and its own [needs],” says Dr. Yitzchak Schechter, founder of the Institute for Applied Research and

Beth Medrash Govoha, founded in 1943, currently boasts a student body of about 7,000, making it one of the largest yeshivot in the world. “We had so many talmidim and new challenges and the old organizational structure hadn’t grown fast enough,” says Rabbi Aaron Kotler, CEO of BMG. Courtesy of BMG

Community Collaboration (ARCC), an organization in Rockland County, New York dedicated to conducting research on psychological and social issues in the frum community. This model, says Dr. Schechter, is not effective in today’s world. “We can no longer afford to have our institutions operate like a giant candy store,” says Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the OU. “We’re talking about enormous sums taken from the community and spent running schools, yeshivot and mikvaot, bikur cholim and chesed organizations and more. Increasingly, we’re seeing management techniques being imported from the business world in ways we didn’t see ten or fifteen years ago.” PLANNING FOR SUCCESS Since taking the helm at the OU in 2014, Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION



Rabbi Aaron Kotler, CEO of Beth Medrash Govoha, has restored the yeshivah’s financial health and turned the institution into a powerhouse that serves as the nerve center of the township of Lakewood. Courtesy of BMG

Fagin has made professionalizing the OU a top priority. One major shift, for example, has been making strategic planning a central component of all operations. At the beginning of each year, all OU departments must prepare detailed goals as well as provide the objective metrics they will use to measure their success in reaching those goals. “Engaging in a robust evaluation of all our programs ensures that every dollar is spent wisely and with maximum impact,” says Fagin. NCSY, for example, recently completed a five-year strategic plan with the goal of impacting students’ lives even more, while also expanding its reach from 16,000 to 24,000 teens annually. Evaluating its programming in such a rigorous fashion helped NCSY staff clarify what they are doing well—and what they are not doing as well. They discovered, for example, that while Shabbatons and classes help bring teens closer to their Jewish roots, experiences that immerse them in a Torah environment for a period of a few weeks, such as a summer program, are often the most transformative. As one NCSY senior staff member put it, “Getting a teen to a six-week summer program is going to have a different effect on that teen than going to a coffee shop for an hour-long ῾Latte and Learning.’” “Virtually every aspect of our operations is now utilizing detailed strategic planning,” says Fagin. “This is something that was unheard of at the OU several years ago.” 66

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Many synagogues and day schools are also turning to strategic planning. When Ben Porat Yosef Day School (BPY) in Bergen County, New Jersey, began experiencing explosive growth— the student body grew from 100 to 500 children in the last five years—Cheryl Rosenberg, president of the BPY Board of Trustees, began planning how to provide for the rapidly growing school. Recently she led a school-wide strategic evaluation to identify areas for improvement. One area in need of attention was re-recruitment. Whereas in the past administrators would wait for reenrollment season to see which families were hesitating, this past year they used a reenrollment tracker that traced each family and the likelihood of them re-enrolling. Additionally, BPY devised a proactive plan for engaging with families that needed extra attention. Besides helping with reenrollment, Rosenberg found that this strategy has improved communication between parents and administration and that parental concerns are being dealt with much more quickly and efficiently. Another priority since Rosenberg became president was transferring operational responsibilities from board members, who work as volunteers, to paid staff. While it was tempting—and necessary in the school’s early years—to use the accounting expertise of a board member to close the books and create cash flow reports every month, Rosenberg found that not having an employee accountable for those tasks was creating

a work lag. “The differentiation of staff and board roles was rocky at first, but necessary as the school transitioned to adulthood,” Rosenberg says. Efforts similar to those made at BPY have long been executed at one of the largest Orthodox Jewish institutions in America: Beth Medrash Govoha (BMG) in Lakewood, New Jersey. Rabbi Aaron Kotler, grandson of the famed Rav Aharon Kotler who opened BMG in 1943, was enlisted in the nineties to rescue the yeshivah which was, at the time, in dire financial straits. The yeshivah was simply not equipped to handle the thousands of students pouring through its doors. “We had so many talmidim and new challenges and the old organizational structure hadn’t grown fast enough,” says Rabbi Kotler. Taking on the title of CEO—an unusual position within a yeshivah administration since it implies a strategic rather than simply an operational role—Rabbi Kotler began tinkering with the system’s nuts and bolts. Many times he would make a change that didn’t end up working out operationally, so he would go back to the drawing board and try something else. This tension of tinkering and adapting continues until today and is healthy for organizations, he believes. More than two decades later, Rabbi Kotler has not only restored the yeshivah’s financial health—its current annual budget is about $48 million dollars—he has turned the institution into a powerhouse that serves as the nerve center of the township of Lakewood, and indeed, of the American yeshivah world. Currently, BMG boasts

Rachel Wizenfeld is a frequent contributor to many Jewish publications. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

a student body of about 7,000, making it one of the largest yeshivot in the world. Running this massive enterprise not only requires sophisticated leadership skills, it entails ongoing strategic planning and thinking. “It’s a huge challenge to step away from the dayto-day operations, because that’s your front-and-center responsibility, but it’s how you’ll build for the long-term,” says Rabbi Kotler. “The more one invests on [the long-term] side, the more solid your institution will be.” BMG’s impact is enormous, with thousands of alumni setting out to create and lead Torah institutions around the world. Moreover, for decades, BMG has been strengthening communities around North America by setting up and investing millions of dollars into establishing community kollels—currently, some eighty-five BMG kollelim exist throughout North America. But before settling on a particular community, Rabbi Kotler’s team will do an extensive strategic analysis, identify what the community’s strengths and weakness are, and only then determine whether or not BMG will focus its energies there. “We do a lot of research before we invest in a community,” says Rabbi Kotler. “[Rabbi Kotler] is fantastic at assessing a situation,” says OU Senior Managing Director Rabbi Steven Weil. “He takes a linear, critical approach, as if applying the ‘Brisker derech’ used to analyze a sugya to analyze a business proposition. He’s always thinking strategically.” MEASURING UP: USING DATA AND METRICS “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” management guru Peter Drucker famously stated. While the use of data and metrics is quickly becoming a standard of practice in almost every field, it is still a relatively new development in the Jewish community. But Dr. Schechter, who has devoted his career to conducting research on the frum community, is a strong proponent of the need for Jewish organizations to collect data and use metrics. Without data, he says, people make decisions based on their feelings, and “are subject

to all sorts of biases.” A good investor, he says, doesn’t go with his gut. “Many Jewish nonprofits fear data,” says NCSY Director of Data and Evaluation Dan Hazony. “The idea of tracking, metrics and quantitative goals is very foreign, and goes against the ethos and corporate culture of most organizations.” But Jewish organizations are slowly— albeit somewhat reluctantly—coming to the realization that to realistically compete in this increasingly datadriven world, they have to become more data savvy. In 2008, the OU hired Hazony to build a sophisticated database to track each NCSY region’s success. Field staff are now expected to input information on all the events that are run and the teens who attend them. “While our staff were initially anxious about using the new database, they eventually became the biggest advocates for data collection,” says Hazony. “They began to understand its power.” Recognizing that smaller organizations don’t have the capacity to track and evaluate metrics, the OU currently makes members of its professional staff available to help other organizations create data-gathering systems and analyze the information. (Interested organizations may contact Hazony at Organizations that are not moving in this direction are doing themselves a disservice, say experts. “There’s waste and an opportunity cost,” says Rabbi Chaim Schwartz, formerly the director of fellows at AIPAC, who currently serves as vice president at Bernstein Private Wealth Management. “Mediocrity breeds failure.” When Rabbi Schwartz was at AIPAC, he built a young fundraising team. “Fundraising and sales are the same—it’s all about engaging someone in something they want to invest in, [irrespective of ] whether it’s a product or a service.” In a short time, Rabbi Schwartz created a successful sales force that is—somewhat astonishingly—comprised of young professionals with little or no experience. “Most of my staff were hired straight

LEADERSHIP . . . In Their Words

“What makes leaders great is that they think ahead, worrying not about tomorrow, but about next year, or the next decade, or the next generation.”

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and prolific author

“A leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

John C. Maxwell Leadership expert, speaker and author

“Everyone must be a leader.”

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson The Lubavitcher Rebbe

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

Ronald Reagan Fortieth president of the United States

Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


out of school and had no fundraising experience whatsoever.” And yet, Rabbi Schwartz says, “it’s not uncommon for a young fundraiser to bring in $150,000 within his first year on the job.” What is Rabbi Schwartz’s formula for success? “We not only track and manage how much money fundraisers are bringing in . . . We track activities that drive success—the number of phone calls made each day, the number of meetings per month, the number of referrals made.” By tracking his team so very closely, he is able to guide them more effectively. “Instead of just hiring people and hoping for the best, we coach our employees and help them grow.” While it is natural for some to find such intense monitoring intimidating, Rabbi Ilan Haber, national director of the OU’s Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OUJLIC), views it differently. Evaluation is a “tool for learning,” says Rabbi Haber, who oversees the rabbinic couples serving Orthodox students on twenty-four campuses throughout North America and Israel. “It helps you learn, grow and simply do things better.” Rabbi Haber’s staff conducts quantitative as well as qualitative assessments. Recently, some 2,900 students filled out annual satisfaction surveys where they rated their experiences with OU-JLIC, but also

provided more than 7,000 qualitative comments. “Ninety-five percent of the participants said OU-JLIC educators are effective role models for them,” says Rabbi Haber. “Such descriptive comments are enormously helpful.” INVESTING IN PEOPLE Jewish organizations and institutions are also, somewhat belatedly, coming to the realization that they need to invest in their greatest asset: their staff. “You can’t create an exceptional organization without exceptional people,” says Abby Saloma, senior program officer at the Schusterman Foundation, a major Jewish community funder. One obvious way to invest in one’s staff is to attract and retain talent by offering competitive compensation packages. To that end, the OU recently undertook a yearlong, organization-wide salary study. “Most Jewish organizations have, as we did, a reasonably haphazard salary system,” says Fagin. Working with a compensation consultant, OU Chief Human Resources Officer Lenny Bessler, along with Senior Compensation Analyst Josh Gottesman, spent months studying employment market data and reviewing all of the positions and responsibilities across the organization to come up with a solid compensation structure. “No other

Jewish nonprofit has done this. It is unprecedented in the Jewish nonprofit world to make salaries consistent across the board, irrespective of whether a man or woman occupies the position,” says Fagin. Aside from creating a competitive compensation structure, ensuring that there is ongoing professional training as well as clear and direct career paths is crucial to keeping employees satisfied with and loyal to the organization. Shortly after Rabbi Micah Greenland was appointed international director of NCSY in 2013, he resolved that NCSY’s professional development needed to be world-class. “In order to attract the talent that we want to attract, we needed to develop those people in the most robust way possible,” says Rabbi Greenland. Shortly thereafter, Fagin hired Rabbi Ari Rockoff to lead the newly established Department of Leadership Development. With a background in communal leadership and industrial psychology, Rabbi Rockoff is responsible for designing career trajectories within NCSY, ensuring appropriate staffing and creating a culture of mentorship across the youth organization. Beginning with a thorough review of each NCSY region, Rabbi Rockoff quickly located many holes, including the fact that

Courtesy of Leading Edge


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A recent AIPAC convention in Washington, DC. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

there was no central web site listing all available NCSY jobs. Additionally, he implemented an employee onboarding system to help new employees learn about the organization. “Previously, it could take an employee two or three years to get truly acclimated,” says Rabbi Greenland. While the majority of learning happens on the job according to management experts, no one disputes the need for ongoing professional training. Rabbi Kotler, who does not have the background of a traditional CEO or an MBA, acquired his leadership skills by learning from top-notch mentors (some of whom are successful businessmen on the board of BMG), by being a ferocious reader of management books—especially those by management guru Patrick Lencioni— and by adopting a mindset of growth for both himself and his staff. Over time, he says, people working in such a growth-oriented environment come to feel like they’re thriving. “There are people who say to me, ‘I came to this team because I knew I would grow more here than I would grow in any other place,’” he says. COMMITMENT TO MISSION One cannot discuss highly successful Jewish organizations without mentioning 70

JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

Chabad, a billion-dollar global empire that maintains its own publishing house and news service. An insular Chassidic sect almost decimated by the Holocaust, Chabad today boasts more than 4,000 shluchim (emissaries) in about 3,000 locations and institutions in ninety-five countries. Chabad Houses are found in all fifty states and in all of the Canadian provinces. “Our evolution as a movement is largely due to the Rebbe’s belief in the utility of every individual and every item in our world,” says Rabbi Efraim Mintz, the founding executive director of the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI)— Chabad’s adult education arm. “Chabad’s highly sophisticated operation observable today is built from leveraging the talents of every person in our network and every advance in technology. It’s what keeps us relevant.” Chabad recognized the power of media decades ago, and began broadcasting Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s talks on cable TV back in the 80s— amidst much opposition. In the Chabad worldview, however, technologies—the Internet, intercontinental satellite programs, streaming video presentations— are to be harnessed for the purpose of bringing estranged Jews closer to their roots. “If we really believe that God gave

the world these tools to spread Yiddishkeit, how can we not take advantage of them?” says Rabbi Mintz. Despite the movement’s state-ofthe-art approach to outreach, Rabbi Mintz prefers not to discuss the particulars of Chabad’s professionalism, because he doesn’t see that as the basis for its extraordinary success. Its success, he says, is rooted in one thing: religious conviction. “Shluchim don’t view their position as a stepping stone,” he says. “They view it as a life calling. Training is important, skill sets are important, but they are all secondary.” Rabbi Mintz—a gifted innovator himself who created a dynamic educational program that provides training and support to thousands of Chabad shluchim worldwide—insists that “the most important thing is to inspire a sense of ownership in the work that [shluchim] do.” For Chabad protégées, this passion is simply part of their DNA, says Rabbi Mintz, and not something that can be bottled or taught. “[Outreach] is not something we do, it’s who we are.” While this formula obviously works for Chabad, can it be replicated outside of the Chabad framework? “One must care about and be committed to

[an organization’s] mission,” says Rabbi Schwartz. “If you’re not fully passionate about the mission, you will not be successful. But there are many people who are passionate but simply lack the right skills or training. It’s not enough to be a passionate person.” THE MAKING OF A LEADER Seventy-five to ninety-five percent of CEOs and executive directors of Jewish nonprofits are going to be retiring in the next five years, according to Leading Edge, an initiative created to cultivate senior leaders for Jewish nonprofits. Most Jewish organizations, of which there are some 9,500 in this country (including schools, camps and synagogues across denominations), have senior leaders who are on the verge of retiring. Finding people to replace them is no simple matter. “We were seeing leaders of major Jewish organizations retiring, with no succession plan or obvious successor in place,” says Gali Cooks,

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executive director of Leading Edge. “Number two’s are not being trained to be number one’s.” Also, there’s little, if any, leadership training, so lower-level managers are not moving up. “[The Jewish communal world] has fantastic professionals [in middle management], but we never gave them opportunities to develop through mentors or role advancements or outside accreditation. They see that they are being looked over and there’s no point in staying in the [Jewish] sector,” says Cooks. In response to the “leadership crisis” in the Jewish communal world, some fifteen federations and foundations came together to create Leading Edge two and half years ago. Since then Leading Edge has launched a variety of initiatives including a CEO onboarding program. “A great organization starts at the top,” says Cooks. Other organizations are taking leadership seriously as well. Years ago, leadership development used to happen through one-size-fits-all training opportunities, but that is no longer the case. “Today’s leaders are working in more complex environments,” says Saloma. “The skills that they require are much more diverse.” Leadership training, many believe, has to be

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customized, which is one reason why Saloma helped start a fellowship training program for Jewish nonprofit leaders. With an eye toward grooming future senior leaders, the OU has sent a few employees that have exhibited exceptional promise to an intense, week-long management program at Columbia Business School in New York. CHANGING THE CULTURE Aside from the lack of succession planning, a problem plaguing most Jewish organizations is the fact that, as Cooks puts it, “the Jewish communal world has an image problem.” Few Jewish young professionals are drawn to work for the sector because Jewish organizations are not perceived as being great places to work. “Our structures need to evolve. If Jewish organizations were great places to work, we could attract and retain the best and the brightest,” she says. Recently NCSY participated in a Leading Edge Employee Engagement Survey, the only Orthodox organization to do so, to better understand how to create a better workplace culture. The survey, in which fifty five Jewish organizations participated in total, honed in on each organization’s strengths and weaknesses; when the results were in, NCSY celebrated its achievements (its staff, for example, is highly engaged: 9 in 10 NCSY staff members feel proud to embrace its mission and work for the organization that fosters it), but also took the time to work on some of its weak points. NCSY implemented certain changes almost immediately, such as offering more formalized mentoring relationships as well as development training for the NCSY fundraising staff. While the OU as a whole still has a way to go with regard to creating a great workplace culture, it is taking steps in the right direction. “Apart from Hillel, we have not seen such initiative and creativity in terms of investing in people and in creating a great workplace culture as we’ve seen at the OU,” says Cooks. In the coming months, Yachad/NJCD will participate in Leading Edge’s employee survey as well. GOING FORWARD “We expect sophistication in every area of our lives,” says Rabbi Ari Rockoff. “We have high expectations for everything we do, professionally and personally. Why should we expect any less from our institutions?” Change is difficult, but an opportunity. And, as is evident from many of the highly successful and effective institutions researched for this article, the hard work of making changes pays off. American Orthodoxy, says Mark (Moishe) Bane, president of the OU, must acknowledge its emergence as a large and complex community. Once “a start-up community,” over the past several decades, the American Orthodox community has enjoyed explosive growth. “Yet as the social, educational and religious needs of the community expand, the community’s institutional infrastructure remains one designed for a fledgling community,” says Bane. “American Orthodoxy is no longer a mom-and-pop community.”

Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION



Chanukah Highlights From Around the World

Latkes! Sufganiyot! This innovative collection of recipes from culinary mavens Joan Nathan and Paula Shoyer will be sure to impress the guests at your holiday table. Chanukah fare with flair!

Zucchini Fritters (Kolokuthokeftedes) Adapted from King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World by Joan Nathan (Knopf) Yields about 36 fritters Joan Nathan shares that she was served the best zucchini fritters ever at an outdoor restaurant in Athens, Greece, even better than those she used to eat in Jerusalem many years ago. 6 small zucchini, about 3 lbs 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste Juice of 1 lemon 1/4 bunch fresh mint, chopped 1 tablespoon fennel fronds, chopped 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (lemon thyme is fantastic here) 1 spring onion or 4 scallions, diced 8 oz (226 g) feta cheese, crumbled 2 large egg yolks 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1 cup (135 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Zucchini Fritters Photo: Gabriela Herman 74

JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

1. Cut the zucchini on the grating blade of a food processor or a box grater. Toss with the sea salt and the lemon juice. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Then squeeze the zucchini very hard in a strainer to remove the excess juices and put in a large mixing bowl. 2. Add the mint, fennel, dill, thyme leaves and the spring onion or scallions to the drained zucchini. Stir in the feta cheese, egg yolks and wine vinegar, then gently fold in the flour.

3. Create small patties about the size of a golf ball and dust lightly with flour using a small strainer. Arrange on a tray covered with parchment paper. Freeze them for at least 20 minutes. This will make them hold together better when frying. 4. When you are ready to serve them, fill a wok or deep fryer with about 3 inches of oil and heat until it is 375°F. When ready, fry about 5 at a time for a few minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Sufganiyot, Israeli Jelly Doughnuts Adapted from King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World by Joan Nathan (Knopf)

least an hour. If you want to prepare it ahead, place the dough in the refrigerator overnight, then let it warm to room temperature before rolling and cutting. 4. Dust a pastry board with flour. Roll the dough out to a 1/2-inch thickness. Using the top of a glass, cut into rounds about 2 inches diameter, then roll into balls. Cover and let rise 30 minutes more. 5. Pour at least 2 inches of oil into a heavy pot and heat to 375 degrees. 6. Drop the doughnuts into the oil, 4 or 5 at a time. Cook about 3 minutes on each side, turning when brown. Drain on paper towels. Using a pastry or cupcake injector (available at cooking stores and online), insert a teaspoon of jam into each doughnut. Roll the sufganiyot in confectioners’ or granulated sugar and serve immediately.

Yields about 2 dozen doughnuts 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast 3 tablespoons sugar, divided 3/4 cup (175 ml) lukewarm milk 3 1/2 cups (450 g) unbleached allpurpose flour (about) 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk Pinch of salt Grated zest of 1 lemon 3 1/2 tablespoons (50 g) butter, at room temperature Vegetable oil for deep-frying 1 cup (about) of apricot, strawberry, or any flavorful jam, dulce de leche, Nutella™ or lemon curd Confectioners’ or granulated sugar for rolling 1. Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the milk. 2. Put the flour in the bowl of a food processor equipped with a steel blade. Add the dissolved yeast, whole egg and yolk, salt, lemon zest and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Process until blended, then pulse until a dough almost forms. Add the butter and process until the dough becomes sticky yet elastic. 3. Remove the dough to a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for at

through the potatoes. Let cool and then peel (you can peel the skin off easily with your fingers). 3. In a medium bowl, mash the potatoes with a potato masher or the back of a fork. Mix in the egg, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Form into patties about 1/4-inch thick and 3 or 4 inches in diameter, then coat with panko. 4. Warm a 1/8-inch-thick sheen of vegetable oil in a large frying pan and fry the latkes until golden on each side, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towel-lined baking sheets. 5. Serve with zhug or any hot sauce you like, or omit the sauce if you like less spice.

Zhug (Yemenite Green Hot Sauce) Yields about 1 1/2 cups

Mashed Sweet Potato Latkes with Zhug Adapted from King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World by Joan Nathan (Knopf) Yields about 10 to 15 latkes 1/2 cup (55 g) panko breadcrumbs, plus more as needed 3 large sweet potatoes (2 to 2 1/2 lbs) 2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted 1 large egg 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste Freshly ground black pepper, to taste Vegetable oil, for frying Zhug, for serving (see following recipe) 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with foil. Pour the panko in a shallow bowl or baking dish and set aside. 2. Scrub the potatoes clean, then pierce with a knife and rub with the coconut oil. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife is easily pierced

4 fresh green Serrano or jalapeño peppers (about 4 oz), stems removed and seeds removed but reserved 1 whole head garlic, peeled 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, well rinsed and dried 1/2 bunch parsley, well rinsed and dried 1 teaspoon ground cumin Seeds from 2 green cardamom pods 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste 1/4 to 1/2 cup (60 ml to 120 ml) olive oil, plus additional to cover 1. Put the peppers with the garlic, cilantro, parsley, cumin, cardamom seeds, and salt to taste in the bowl of a food processor. Begin blending and gradually adding 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the olive oil. Puree to a smooth paste. Taste and adjust for seasonings, adding some or all of the pepper seeds if you want more heat. 2. Transfer the contents to a sterilized glass jar, cover with additional olive oil, and seal so the jar is airtight. The zhug will keep for several months in the refrigerator, and the flavor will only become better with age. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Aquafaba Chocolate Mousse Adapted from The Healthy Jewish Kitchen by Paula Shoyer (Sterling Epicure) Yields 6 servings Aquafaba is the thick liquid in canned chickpeas that we usually dump down the drain of the kitchen sink. When you beat chickpea liquid, it looks exactly like beaten egg whites, only they’re vegan. After you’ve used the liquid from the can, you can use the chickpeas in a salad. Liquid from 1 15-oz (430 g) can chickpeas (reserve chickpeas for other use) 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 3 tablespoons sugar 6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet chocolate 1. Place the chickpea liquid and cream of tartar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Turn on the mixer to low speed for 1 minute, then turn it up to high and beat the chickpea liquid and tartar mixture with the whisk attachment for a full 15 minutes. Turn the speed to low and add the sugar, a little at a time, to the bowl. When the mixture is thoroughly mixed, turn the machine back to high and continue to beat for 1 minute or until thick and shiny. 2. While the chickpea liquid is beating, place the chocolate in a microwavesafe bowl and heat it for 1 minute. Stir and heat the chocolate for 45 seconds, and then stir it again. Heat the chocolate for 30 seconds, or more, until it has completely melted. You can also melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Set it aside. 3. Scoop up 1/4 of the beaten chickpea liquid and sugar and whisk it into the melted chocolate. Add another 1/4 of the beaten chickpea mix and whisk it in more slowly. Transfer this mix76

JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

Potato Scallion Latkes Photo: Bill Milne ture to the bowl with the remaining beaten chickpea liquid and mix it in gently but thoroughly, so you don’t see any white spots. 4. Spoon the mousse into a large serving bowl or 6 individual bowls, cover them with plastic wrap, and let the mousse firm up for at least 12 hours.

guilt associated with eating them,” says Paula. “These latkes are baked in the oven and easily won over my kids. You do need to watch them so they do not burn; they were done at different times in different ovens. The Pickled Applesauce is basically a tangy-spicy applesauce, which we also eat with schnitzel.”

Yields 6 servings

Latkes: 2 tablespoons sunflower or safflower oil, or more if needed 1/2 medium onion, quartered 2 scallions, ends trimmed, cut into thin slices or chopped into small pieces 3 medium potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs), scrubbed clean and unpeeled 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 2 large eggs 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 2 tablespoons potato starch 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

“Everyone loves potato latkes, but no one likes the mess of frying them, or the

Pickled Applesauce: 1 teaspoon sunflower or safflower oil

Paula’s Note: Mousse can be made 3 days in advance.

Potato and Scallion Latkes with Pickled Applesauce Adapted from The Healthy Jewish Kitchen by Paula Shoyer (Sterling Epicure)

1. To make the latkes, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). When the oven is hot, pour 2 tablespoons of oil onto 2 jelly roll pans and turn them in every direction so that the oil coats the pans. Heat the pans in the oven for 5 minutes. 2. Place the onions and scallions in the bowl of a food processor and chop them into small pieces. Place them in a medium bowl. Shred the potatoes by hand on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor with the shredding blade, and place in the bowl. Add the lemon juice, eggs, baking powder, potato starch, salt, and pepper and mix well. 3. Very carefully (I mean really carefully; move very slowly) remove one of the pans and use your hands or a spoon to scoop up and drop clumps of the potato mixture, a little less than 1/4 cup, onto the pan. Press the mixture down to flatten it a little. 4. Place the pan in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes and immediately remove the second oiled pan. Repeat the same process with the remaining potato mixture and bake the second pan of latkes for 10 to 12 minutes. Bake them until the edges are well browned, and then with a slotted spatula turn them over and cook the latkes for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are browned. 5. Meanwhile, to make the applesauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook them for 3 minutes, until they soften. Add the vinegar and brown sugar and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the apples, coriander, ginger, cinnamon stick, salt, and pepper, and cook, covered, on low heat for 15 minutes, or until the apples are soft. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes and then puree it, using an immersion blender or a food processor. Paula’s Note: Latkes may be made 2 days in advance and reheated in the oven or frozen; applesauce may be made 4 days in advance.

Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada.

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1/3 cup red onions, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 2 tablespoons light brown sugar 2 apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes 1/4 tsp ground coriander 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1 cinnamon stick 1/4 teaspoon salt Pinch black pepper

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What’s the Truth about . . . How Much to Open the Torah for Hagbah? By Ari Z. Zivotofsky Misconception: During hagbah, when the Torah is lifted in shul, the more columns of text visible to the assembled, the better. Fact: According to many authorities, when the Torah is lifted, at least three columns of the Torah scroll should be visible; this is not just the minimum requirement, but the ideal number of columns. Background: In most Ashkenazi shuls, after the Torah reading is completed, two people are called up, often not by name, to roll up the Torah scroll. While this may appear to be a mere “housekeeping” task, hagbah (lifting up the Torah scroll and rolling it closed) and gelilah (helping to close the Torah and then tying the scroll and replacing its cover and ornaments) may be the most important honors pertaining to the public reading of the Torah. The Talmud (Megillah 32a) records a statement of Rav Yehoshua ben Levi that is cited as halachah (Rambam, Hilchot Tefillah 12:18; Shulchan Aruch, OC 147:1). Rav Yehoshua ben Levi says that after the Torah reading, the most distinguished member of the congregation should receive the honor of rolling1 up the Torah scroll, and he will thereby receive the spiritual reward of all those who participated in the reading. In earlier times, gelilah was either given to the most prominent shul members (Gra, OC 147 s.v., gadol; Machatzit Hashekel, OC 147:3; MB 147:6) or the most important rav of the city (Shu”t Maharsham 1:198). Alternatively, it was auctioned to the highest bidder (SA, OC 147:1). In contemporary times, however, the custom is to offer the honor to ordinary members of the congregation (MB 147:7). Rabbi Dr. Zivotofsky is a professor of brain science at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.


JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

The earliest detailed description of hagbah is found in the post-Talmudic Masechet Sofrim, where it states (14:14): “Then he rolls open the sefer Torah until three columns [are visible], and lifts it up and shows the text to the people standing to his right and left, and then he turns it to the front and back, because it is a mitzvah for all of the men and women to see the text, and bow, and say, ‘And this is the Torah which Moshe placed before the Children of Israel’ (Devarim 4:44) and ‘The Torah of God is perfect, restoring the soul’” (Tehillim 19:8). There are various customs regarding the timing of hagbah (Me’am Loez, Devarim 27:26). In Masechet Sofrim, hagbah precedes the actual reading of the Torah (see Gra, OC 134, s.v., v’nahagu) and to this day, most Sephardim raise the Torah just after removing it from the aron (Ben Ish Chai, year 2, Toldot:16). Ashkenazim, as stated by the Rema (Darkei Moshe 147:4; Shulchan Aruch, OC 134:2; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 134:3), for the most part, perform hagbah after the Torah reading,2 although the Kaf Hachaim says that Ashkenazim in the Land of Israel performed it before the Torah reading.3 Today, there are some Chassidim who follow the Sephardic practice. The Ashkenazi custom of performing hagbah after the Torah reading seems to be a departure from the original practice. The change is due to the fact that ignorant people thought that seeing the Torah text was more important than hearing it and would therefore leave the shul after hagbah. To ensure that people stayed, hagbah was moved to after the Torah reading (Kaf Hachaim 134:17, quoting Knesset Hagedolah; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Hashalem [Toledano], Dinei Hotza’at Sefer Torah 6). The importance of seeing the Torah text is evident from a story in Nechemiah, which may be a source for the custom of hagbah. The Jews had

returned from the Babylonian exile and were experiencing a religious revival, highlighted by a lengthy public Torah reading by Ezra. After the reading was completed, the verse states: “Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people,4 and when he opened it, all the people stood” (Nechemiah 8:5). In order to ensure that everyone sees the actual text in the Torah scroll, Masechet Sofrim states that the Torah should be raised and shown in all directions “because it is a mitzvah for all of the men and women5 to see the writing.” The Shulchan Aruch (OC 134:2) includes this requirement of showing the text to everyone; the Mishnah Berurah (134:9) explains that one should slowly turn to show the script to the entire congregation, similar to how he instructs (OC 128:61) the kohanim to turn during duchening. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichot Shlomo 12:28, note 40, p. 153) says that if there are people on all sides of the bimah, the one who performs hagbah should turn to the right and make a full circle, but if there are people only on the two sides, he can just turn right and then left rather than make a complete circle. Similarly, Shevet HaLevi (9:26; c.f., Mishneh Halachot 11:103), emphasizes that the point is to ensure that all of the congregants see the Torah script. The Kaf Hachaim (134:13; c.f., MB 134:11) notes that in Yerushalayim, the custom was to walk around the entire shul with the Torah scroll open so that everyone could see the text. In order to prevent the magbia from obscuring the view of the Torah text, some early authorities suggest that hagbah be done with the text facing the congregants. However, the Ashkenazi practice today is to have it face the magbia (Bach, OC 134; Rema, OC 147:4; Encyclopedia Talmudit 8:168).6 Various rules have been instituted with regard to the practice of hagbah.


The gemara (Megillah 32a) says: “Rav Shefatiah said in the name of Rav Yochanan that the one who rolls the Torah [golel] must position it on the seam [i.e., the seam between two pages of the Torah should be in the middle of the open section].” Rashi understands that this is simply the most appropriate way to tighten the Torah scroll; most later commentators maintain, as the Shulchan Aruch does (OC 147:3), that this is to ensure that no damage occurs to the scroll. If the magbia ensures the scroll has a seam in the middle of the open section, in case the scroll does tear, God forbid, the tear will most likely be along the seam. The early nineteenth-century Sha’arei Ephraim (10:17) observes that people were becoming lax about this rule, and speculated that it is because the magbia no longer pulls the Torah rollers as tightly as it was once done. Thus, he reasons, there is less of a concern about damaging the scroll. Another possible reason for the laxity is because the ruling was instituted when the klaf, Torah parchment, was more fragile and could easily tear, which is less likely to happen today (Josef Lewy, Minhag Yisrael Torah, 1997, 147:3 quoting Divrei Yechezkel Hachadash). How much of the scroll should be opened?7 Dr. Ron Wolfson’s The Seven Questions You’re Asked in Heaven states, “It is considered preferable for the lifter to show the worshippers as many columns of the Torah script as possible.”8 Is this accurate, or is there a specific number of columns? Masechet Sofrim states: “Then he rolls open the sefer Torah until9 three columns [are revealed],” which implies “until three” and no more. Similarly, the eleventh-century Machzor Vitry (p. 527) says: “The sefer Torah is unrolled until three columns and then lifted,” indicating specifically three. The guideline regarding the number of columns does not appear in the Shulchan Aruch, but the Magen Avraham (OC 134:3) includes it and suggests that the statement is referring to the precise number of columns that need to be shown, rather than a minimum or suggested amount. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried; 23:25) states one should open the scroll to three columns, implying that that is the required amount. Based on the Magen Avraham and Sofrim, HaShomer Emet10 (7:1) states that the scroll should be opened to three columns. Rav Eliezer Papo (d. 1827), famous as the author of the Pele Yoetz, wrote in his halachic work Chesed L’alafim (135:4) that the Torah should be unrolled to reveal three columns, no less and no more. Shu”t B’tzel Hachachmah (Rav Betzalel Stern, d. 1988; 5:54) explains in great detail exactly how the magbia should turn while holding the Torah and then states that the scroll should be opened to three columns, implying precisely three. The significant exception is the Mishnah Berurah (134:8), who maintains that three may be the minimum, and the maximum depends upon the physical strength of the magbia.11 This concept of “three columns” with regard to a Torah scroll is mentioned in other contexts as well. In the Geonic era, Sefer Halachot Gedolot (siman 75, pp. 682-683) mentions that when reading from a Torah scroll, one should open it to three columns and no more. Even if two people are reading from the same scroll and it would be more convenient to


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open it wider, they should open it to three columns. Unrelated to hagbah,12 the gemara states (Baba Metzia 29b) that if someone is watching another individual's scroll (not necessarily a Torah scroll), either because he found it or he was asked to watch it, he must care for it by regularly rolling it so that it does not rot and when opening it, he should not reveal more than three columns (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 267:20; 292:20). This halachah implies that opening a scroll no wider than three columns is the most prudent way to treat a scroll. There is also a hashkafic aspect that should be mentioned. Hagbah is a practice clearly intended to honor a sefer Torah. Not infrequently, the older brother of a bar mitzvah boy is honored with hagbah. Often he proceeds to open the Torah to five, six or more columns. This strongman performance invariably shifts the attention of the congregation from the Torah scroll itself to the magbia, who is showered with praise for his show of strength. Indeed, the book The Seven Questions You’re Asked in Heaven acknowledges that “a good hagbah can show three, four, even five columns. Six columns? You’ll get an admiring yasher koach—literally ‘may you be strengthened,’ or more colloquially, ‘way to go!’” However, after such a display, the Torah reading is no longer the focus. According to the Ramban, the final curse of the Tochachah in Devarim (27:26) refers to an improperly performed hagbah: “Cursed be he who does not uphold [asher lo yakim] the words of this Torah . . .”13 Among the various opinions in the Yerushalmi (Sotah 7:4) about this verse is that of Rav Shimon ben Yakim, who says the pasuk refers to the chazzan. Ramban explains that chazzan here means a magbia who does not properly show the Torah to all assembled, as required in Masechet Sofrim. Hagbah is a custom that centers on the Torah itself. It is about showing the Torah proper respect and honor, and impressing upon all those assembled the tremendous and enduring spiritual significance Torah has in our lives. Notes 1. Although the Talmud (Megillah 32a) 80

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4. 5.


only refers to one role, the “golel,” today the Ashkenazic custom is to honor two people; one performs hagbah, the other performs gelilah. Of the two, the magbia is usually considered the main functionary and has the more important function (MB 147:5, 19; Chayei Adam 31:13). The custom is to even permit the honoring of a child with gelilah in order to train him in mitzvot (MB 147:7). However, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 147:9) views the golel as having the more important function. As pointed out by the Mishnah Berurah (134:8), Rav Yaakov ben Asher in the Tur (an Ashkenazi) included hagbah after the Torah reading in siman 147, while Rav Yosef Karo (a Sephardi), refusing to tamper with the order of the Tur, left the halachot there but added a section about hagbah before the Torah reading in siman 134. The Jews of Cochin, India have a unique custom. They have a second bimah on the balcony in front of the ezrat nashim where the Torah is read. Hagbah is done twice, first down below in the men’s section and then again near the women’s section. He was standing on a platform. See Nechemiah 8:4. The inclusion of women implies that synagogues were constructed in such a way that the women could see the Torah being raised and that women were present for the reading of the Torah. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 134:2) includes the requirement that women see the Torah text. Hashomer Emet (7:2) emphasizes that women must be able to view the text by citing two earlier sources: Rav Simchat Yehuda on Masechet Sofrim and Magen Avraham (OC 282:6), who says that possibly women are obligated in hearing the Torah reading (and hence in seeing the lifted Torah) because it is similar to Hakhel, which women must attend. The exception is on Simchat Torah, when there is a custom in some communities to do hagbah on some of the sifrei Torah with the text fac-

ing out. See Avraham Yaari, Toldot Chag Simchat Torah (Jerusalem, 1989), 75-77. 7. The Italian Jewish communities have a special silver bar called a sharbit that fits over the two wooden atzei chayim, Torah rollers. The bar holds the Torah open to a fixed amount, usually revealing three or four columns. Furthermore, to prevent someone from accidentally dropping the Torah, there are generally two people performing hagbah, one on each side. 8. (Woodstock, 2009), 48. 9. There is an alternate version in some manuscripts and in the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 134:3) that has “al” (on) instead of “ad” (until). 10. A work on the laws of Torah reading by Rav Avraham Chaim Adaidi, nineteenth-century Libya and Israel. 11. The Mishnah Berurah (147:7) cautions that a weak person should never be honored with hagbah. In Spanish/Portuguese congregations, hagbah was entrusted only to a select group known as levantadores (Spanish for “raise up,” it referred to “master lifters” of the scroll), thus honoring them and minimizing the risk of someone mishandling the Torah (Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed. [2008], vol. 8, s.v., Hagbah p. 207). The fear of dropping the Torah or mishandling the parchment led some Italian communities in the eighteenth century to abolish hagbah altogether, a practice defended by the Chida (L’David Emet, 5746, p. 13). 12. This idea is based on a devar Torah that was written and distributed by Rabbi Dov Hakohen Tropper of New York, in memory of his son Pinchas, who passed away at the tender age of eight. 13. Yalkut Yosef (OC 134, note 13) suggests that the Ramban believed this was an asmachta, a hint found in the Hebrew Bible for rabbinical prohibitions or any other halachah, and not a true Biblical reference.


Check out NCSY’s 4 exciting new summer programs! J

ReSURF: Public school teens mentor Israeli youth and learn the art of sustainability and social entrepreneurship, with some surfing on the side.


TJJ Impact: A co-ed,

social action and chesed trip to Israel for public school teens.


4G Euro: Teens explore


“ “

Europe and Israel through a Jewish lens on this all-girls trip.


Rescue Israel: On this

co-ed Israel trip, teens tour Israel, gain certification in CPR, first-aid and hemorrhage control, and get an all-access look at United Hatzalah’s operations.


Teens used to have to sacrifice summer fun for resume-building. We’ve now created programs that allow teens to have both.” ELLIOT TANZMAN, Director of NCSY Summer Recruitment, describing Rescue Israel, a joint endeavor of NCSY and United Hatzalah. This co-ed Israel trip shows teens what it's like to be a first responder.

[Before Hurricane Irma], if you would have [told us to] undertake housing, feeding and caring for 1,500 people for a few days, we would have thought twice. But we’ve discovered that whatever limits we think we have are not accurate. We’ve gained the sense that anything is possible.” RABBI ILAN FELDMAN, rav of Beth Jacob Atlanta, commenting on the Toco Hills Jewish community’s herculean effort to care for the Jewish Floridians who fled the hurricane in September.

The teens are amazing . . . Many of them use their earnings from babysitting to pay [for travel expenses] for missions.” RABBI ETHAN KATZ, New Jersey NCSY Regional Director, who arranged a number of NCSY clean-up missions to Houston.

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NEW POSITIONS & PROMOTIONS NCSY welcomes Daniel Gordon as Chief Relationship Officer, NCSY New York and Associate National Director of Development. In addition to fundraising nationally, Daniel will work with NCSY New York CEO Rina Emerson to expand NCSY’s reach in New York’s Jewish communities. “We want New York’s communities to take advantage of NCSY—a resource in their own backyard,” he says. Daniel joins the NCSY team after seven years at Yeshiva University, where he most recently served as the President’s Chief of Staff. He lives in Riverdale, New York with his wife Aviva and their two young children, Emma and Avery. For over a decade, Michal Taviv-Margolese has worked in the Jewish nonprofit sector and managed projects in South Africa, Canada and Israel, as well as in the United States. In her new role as Executive Director of West Coast NCSY, she puts her tremendous skills and passion to work by imbuing all of her projects with a sense of purpose, warmth and professionalism. With extensive experience in event planning, community building, branding/marketing and strategic development, Michal is thrilled to be part of the talented and dynamic group of individuals running West Coast NCSY.

Sholom Licht has been appointed Director of the Executive Office. Working with OU

President Moishe (Mark) Bane and OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin, Sholom acts as a liaison between the OU’s departments and the executive office, and provides research and planning assistance for the leadership’s projects. Well-rounded and at home in many parts of the Orthodox world, Sholom studied at Yeshiva Shaar HaTorah in Queens, New York, Lakewood’s Beth Medrash Govoha, Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel and YU’s RIETS Semikha Program in New York. He holds a master's from YU's Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. In his spare time he enjoys biking and skiing.

Sharon Darack is the new Director of North America, Israel Free Spirit: Birthright Israel.

After fifteen years as Program Director of JACS, a program of The Jewish Board, where she partnered with Israel Free Spirit on niche tours for young people impacted by addiction, Sharon now joins the Israel Free Spirit team to manage recruitment, marketing and trip organization. Her goals include expanding fundraising and sponsorship opportunities and building on Israel Free Spirit’s achievements. A native of North West London and Israel, Sharon now lives in Teaneck, New Jersey with her husband and two sons.

Rabbi David Pardo is the new Director of Birthright Follow Up. One of the OU’s newest departments, it is committed to translating the inspiration of 40,000 annual Birthright alumni into concrete, lifelong Jewish engagement. David oversees a number of programs, including Bring Israel Home and Bring Back Shabbat. His role as Director combines his passion for the Jewish people with his enthusiasm for technology. David and his wife previously served as OUJLIC Torah educators at Brandeis University. Originally from Los Angeles, David is passionate about his work, his community, and above all, his wife and three daughters. Daniel Aqua joins Teach Florida as the program’s first Field Director. In his new role, Daniel is responsible for encouraging Jewish parents and community members to vote and take action on behalf of Jewish students, families and schools. Daniel is a graduate of the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School and Baruch College and is a former Jewish day school teacher. He currently lives in Hollywood, Florida.


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As the Grassroots Engagement Director of Teach NYS, Annie Watman will work with communities across New York on engagement, support and activism to garner additional state funding for our schools. Previously, Annie served as AIPAC’s Director of South Shore, Long Island. She is a graduate of NYU, with a bachelor’s in politics and Jewish history and a master’s in international relations. Annie lives with her husband and son in downtown Manhattan. Teach NYS’s new Government Programs Associate Adam Katz assists schools in navigating and obtaining government resources and maximizing the public funding they receive. He also creates communication materials and conducts strategic planning. Previously, Adam worked at the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, as well as for the US Navy. Adam studied at Aish HaTorah in Israel, and he earned a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a master’s in urban and regional policy from Northeastern University. Originally from Stoughton, Massachusetts, Adam now lives in Brooklyn with his wife Masha and daughter Mariashi.


Every summer, NCSY’s Euro ICE brings high schoolers on a month-long tour of Europe and Israel to explore their Jewish heritage and connect with their shared history. Participant Shayna Roberts of Las Vegas, Nevada, wrote to Euro ICE Director Rabbi Israel Lashak to share an eye-opening moment from this past summer’s trip.

The True Meaning of Am Yisrael Chai When I planned to join Euro ICE this summer, never did it occur to me that I would experience the true meaning of Am Yisrael Chai on this trip. On July 9, after visiting the Buda Castle in Budapest, the bus stopped at a random spot, and we proceeded to take a short walk. We came to the bank of the Danube River, where we saw sixty pairs of rusted shoes made of iron set into the concrete along the river bank. No one quite understood what we were looking at until Rabbi Lashak told us the most incredible account:

Rusted iron shoes line the bank of the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary, where the Nazis drowned hundreds of Jews. Courtesy of Shayna Roberts

One night in Budapest during WWII, the Jews were gathered up and brought to the Danube River. The Arrow Cross militiamen tied eight to ten people together, shot the first one and the last one in the head and then threw [the entire group] in the river. This happened to Jews, Gypsies, Christians—everyone who wasn’t a blonde-haired, blue-eyed German. At this point, there was not one dry eye in our group, and as I felt my faith in humanity slipping away, something [amazing] happened. We all gathered around and lit several candles for those who were murdered. We closed our eyes, and poured our hearts out to God as we sang “Vehi She’amdah,” a song about Jewish survival. As I sang, I felt my heart ripping in two. Why would God, so great and so powerful, do this to His own creations? And then I thought, because God knows that as long as the Jewish nation stands b’yachad, as one, we can overcome anything. What I was looking at in front of me was a true example of that. As I continued to sing, the volume of our voices rose. I opened my eyes and saw that thirty other people had joined us, holding hands in our circle and singing with us. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of love and wholeness. I knew these were my people, that we were not forsaken and that God is always, always with me. That day changed my life. Just when you believe you are alone, suffering on a river bank, in a foreign country, you can suddenly look up and find . . . family. I learned many lessons on this trip and experienced many things that changed the way I look at the world. The most important lesson I learned was realizing that we Jews are a nation. We need to stick together, and through that, we can prevail. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


SPOTLIGHT ON HOUSTON: OU Spearheads Hurricane Relief Efforts By Sara Spielman

Top: Debris covers the lawns of Houston homes. Bottom: Destroyed siddurim in UOS. Opposite: NCSYers from New Jersey cleaning up the shul. The sanctuary of United Orthodox Synagogues (UOS) of Houston experienced up to seven feet of flood water in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Photos: Rabbi Ethan Katz

When Hurricane Harvey hit late August, it took more than a village to help Houston’s devastated Jewish community begin to recover. Through the joint relief efforts of the OU and the RCA, thousands donated money, recited Tehillim and volunteered to assist hurricane victims in recovery efforts. Within the first few weeks, the OU/ RCA Disaster Relief Fund raised $1.4 million to assist the hundreds of families in Houston’s Jewish community who were displaced by the storm. “Not one penny went to overhead,” says Rabbi Adir Posy, OU Regional Director of Western States, who led the efforts. “Everything went to relief efforts.” “I’m grateful for the initial influx of cash from the OU, which really helped a lot of congregants with 84

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immediate costs associated with cleaning up and purchasing items ruined during the flood,” says Rabbi Barry Gelman, rabbi of United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston. The largest Orthodox synagogue in the area, UOS suffered significant damage, having taken in between six and seven feet of water; nearly every one of the shul’s 350 member families experienced flooding. “Unfortunately, this city has gotten used to storms and floods in just the last few years,” said Allen Fagin, OU Executive Vice President. “This storm was qualitatively different than anything that’s taken place previously. The magnitude, the number of homes under water, with literally hundreds of families displaced from their homes . . . so the community response has been truly overwhelming.”

Once the storm hit, Rabbi Posy contacted the leadership of shuls nation-wide, and the OU became a clearinghouse to coordinate volunteers, clean-up efforts, food delivery and temporary living arrangements. Working with a number of community organizations, the OU collected and delivered much-needed food and supplies to the Houston Jewish community. Funds raised went to help families rebuild, cover rent and furnish apartments. Now that the recovery effort is in full swing, many disaster relief operations are closing shop and federal assistance takes time to come through. However, the OU’s relief efforts will continue in Houston for the weeks and months ahead. To join our efforts to help rebuild the Houston Jewish community, visit


HURTING. HOW YOU CAN HELP. Visit houston-relief-fund/.

NCSYers Aid in Clean-Up Effort Volunteers from New Jersey NCSY flew to Houston in the aftermath of the storm to help hard-hit victims of Hurricane Harvey. Hailing from throughout New Jersey including Teaneck, Highland Park, and Twin Rivers as well as from Monsey, New York, the high schoolers spent their Labor Day weekend removing drywall, pulling up moldy carpet and salvaging siddurim and sefarim from United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston. “This is a transformative experience for our teens,” says Rabbi Ethan Katz, Director of New Jersey NCSY. “Whenever we put out a notice for a chesed mission, we have a ratio of five to one for every open spot. Watching these future leaders take action rejuvenates and excites me.” New Jersey NCSY has performed close to sixty relief missions since Katrina. A total of seven cleanup missions to Houston are planned though December 30, with additional missions to be set in 2018.

OU Advocacy Spearheads Legislation Providing Federal Disaster Relief to Houses of Worship When natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma strike, synagogues and other houses of worship—including those that have sustained damage—are among the first to step forward to provide muchneeded aid. They rescue and bring people to safety, convert their buildings into temporary shelters, distribute food and water, help clear debris, provide childcare and even lend funds to those in need of emergency rent or cash assistance—regardless of faith. And yet, unlike nonprofits like libraries, museums, zoos or community centers, these very same faith organizations are barred from receiving federal aid to repair their own disasterravaged premises—simply because they are religious. For

years, OU Advocacy Executive Director Nathan Diament has been focused on changing that. Building support among legislators and working closely with them, Diament helped draft a bill that would amend federal law to ensure that religious entities are eligible for federal aid. In recent months, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), James Lankford (R-OK), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Peter King (R-NY), Grace Meng (D-NY) and Trent Franks (R-AZ) re-introduced this legislation in both chambers. “It’s time to end this discriminatory treatment,” says Diament. “Synagogues, churches, mosques and other houses of worship are on the front-lines when it comes to disaster recovery and deserve the same consideration as their nonprofit counterparts.”

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First OU-JLIC Program Launches in Israel It was an historic moment for the Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC) this past October with the launch of the firstever campus program in Israel at the Raphael Recanati International School of the Interdisciplinary School (IDC) in Herzliya. Of the roughly 2,000 students in the international program, about 400 are Orthodox—and about 150 of those are North American day school graduates, a rapidly growing demographic at the school. “The students reached out to us, eager to have OU-JLIC help create and support religious life on campus,” says Rabbi Ilan Haber, National Director of OU-JLIC. A perfect campus couple was already on Rabbi Haber’s radar. Rabbi Josh and Margo Botwinick, formerly of New Jersey, had moved to Israel in 2016 and were learning and teaching in the Gush. They jumped at the opportunity be part of the OU-JLIC in Israel, quickly moving with their son Yoshi to Herzliya. Rabbi Josh and Margo Botwinick

In addition to providing typical OU-JLIC programming including chavrutot, shiurim and Shabbatonim, the Botwinicks will provide IDC students with a much-needed sense of community and family. “These North American students are far from home, away from their families in a foreign country. OU-JLIC gives them personal, communal support,” says Rabbi Jonathan Shulman, OU-JLIC Israel Coordinator. Thanks to the support of a lead grant from the Mayberg Foundation and other sources, as well as generous parents and student momentum, OU-JLIC at IDC is now a reality. “I am so pleased we’ve pulled this off,” says Jonathan Davis, Vice President of External Relations and Head of the Raphael Recanati International School at IDC. “I cannot think of a better investment these parents could have made for the sake of the futures of their children.”

OU Kosher CEO Meets with Preeminent Ingredient Provider This past July, Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO, OU Kosher, and Rabbi Yitzchok Gutterman, Rabbinic Coordinator, OU Kosher, met with Juan Luciano, CEO of Archer Daniel Midland (ADM) to discuss the company’s global partnership with the OU and ways to enhance the relationship. ADM is a multinational company that produces many of the ingredients that we consume every day, such as flour, high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, vegetable oils, lecithin and more. ADM has been an OU-certified company for thirty years and currently has over 170 plants under OU certification. From left: Rabbi Simcha Smolensky, Senior Rabbinic Field Representative, OU Kosher; Juan Luciano, CEO of ADM; Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO, OU Kosher and Rabbi Yitzchok Gutterman, Rabbinic Coordinator, OU Kosher, who oversees ADM’s plants. 86

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Building Leaders Through the Arts Coming up on its fifth summer, Camp Maor has a new track for its high school campers: the Leadership Cohort. Open to girls completing ninth and tenth grades, the cohort teaches campers to channel their passion for the performing and visual arts into being effective leaders in their communities. “The arts, especially the performing arts, are a fantastic way for these teens to learn leadership skills,” says Camp Maor Director Sari Kahn.

Members of Camp Maor’s Leadership Cohort and camp director Sari Kahn at NCSY Staff Con, holding playbills from summer 2017’s plays. From left: Chava Schapiro, Leah Rubin, Rivka Marcus, Elisheva Hirsch, Ilana Epstein and Mrs. Sari Kahn. Photo: Josh Weinberg

In addition camp responsibilities, such as running night activities and managing the camp’s Big Sister/Little Sister program, the cohort attends leadership workshops with the senior staff and perform their own end-of-camp play, learning about all aspects of production in the process. And to bring the skills home, this past summer’s cohort created a chesed endeavor called “Super Friends,” where they learned how to create and perform in a superhero costume for patients at pediatric hospitals. “I now have the confidence to explore new opportunities,” says Ilana Epstein of Highland Park, New Jersey, who has attended Camp Maor for two years.

OU Supports Atlanta Hospitality During Irma As Hurricane Irma approached landfall, the Toco Hills Jewish community of Atlanta opened their homes to over 1,500 Jewish evacuees from Florida. In response, the Orthodox Union set up a fundraising page and pledged $50,000 to ensure the community could feed the influx of families for four-plus days, including Shabbat. “Before a single penny was raised, the OU put money forward,” says Rabbi Adam Starr, the rav of the Young Israel of Toco Hills. “This gave us the ability to know we could pull this off.”

A welcome sign on the gate of the Young Israel of Toco Hills greets evacuees. Courtesy of Rabbi Adam Starr

And no one was turned down. “Many of us were moved to tears to see this mass of humanity walking around in the social hall, happy and well fed, the kids playing and the adults schmoozing, in face of catastrophe,” says Rabbi Ilan Feldman, rav of Beth Jacob of Atlanta. “It was a tremendous sight.” “Part of the Orthodox Union’s mission is helping our communities when they are in need,” said Moishe Bane, OU President. “We were inspired by and grateful to the Atlanta Jewish community for all they were willing to do to help Florida evacuees and we wanted to help them in any way we could.”

Volunteers set up Friday night meal seating for hundreds of Florida evacuees at Beth Jacob Atlanta. Courtesy of Naftali Herrmann

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NEW DEPARTMENT to Advance Women’s Growth Advancing the spiritual, religious and communal involvement of women is the goal of a historic new department created by the OU. The Department of Women’s Initiatives, headed by Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman of Bala Cynwyd, PA, will coordinate all of the OU’s programming for women. “We want to create programs that will inspire women of all ages to find their personal leadership voice—to lead others and themselves toward greater religious growth,” said Dr. Shmidman, a dynamic community leader with years of experience in Jewish education and leadership. Among its many innovative goals and programs, the department will encourage women to take on lay leadership roles in synagogues and promote female scholars-in-residence. It will also foster high-level Torah learning opportunities for women of all ages and seek to enhance the spiritual involvement of women in shuls through various programming. In addition, it will encourage the physical expansion of women’s spaces in synagogues and develop a think tank to analyze programs and resources for Orthodox women. “The OU is committed to putting its full array of resources into this bold new department,” said OU President Moishe Bane, “and dedicating all means necessary to ensure that every woman in our community is not only connected, but feels encouraged to grow and reach new heights.” OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin said, “I’m excited that after an extensive, nationwide search, Dr. Shmidman has agreed to undertake this role and to shape the OU’s commitment to encouraging female Orthodox leadership for the next century, and to enhance the Orthodox experience for women across the continuum of Jewish life.”

Meet Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman What is one of biggest challenges facing Orthodox women today? “Many women would like to feel more engaged and valued as active contributors in Orthodox society,” says Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman. In her new role as Director of the OU’s Department of Women’s Initiatives, Rebbetzin Shmidman is determined to address that. “A Jewish woman needs to feel that her voice counts within the synagogue and within the community and that her presence is valued.” With a doctorate in educational psychology and a master’s in Jewish education, Rebbetzin Shmidman also serves as rebbetzin of the Lower Merion Synagogue in Bala Cynwyd, PA. A dynamic educator for the past two decades, she is passionate about Jewish education and about community building, two areas which are fundamental to her new role. “This job really resonated with me,” says Rebbetzin Shmidman, who hopes to build a strong community of spiritually empowered Orthodox women. “There are halachic parameters; let’s work within those parameters to inspire, enrich and help women grow and find meaning.” In 2015, she founded the The Rebbetzin Elaine Wolf, a”h, Mentoring Program, under the aegis of Yeshiva University, which matches younger rebbetzins with more seasoned rebbetzins. A creative and energetic thinker, Rebbetzin Shmidman has “Jewish education in her blood.” Both she and her husband come from rabbinic families. “Women,” she says, “should be ennobled and enabled.” Adina Shmidman 88

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NEW FROM OU PRESS The Light That Unites Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider Artwork by Aitana Perlmutter OU Press

Every Jewish holiday possesses its own sacred scripture—texts to which we return each year to study and which form the basis for our reflections on the meaning of the holiday. Every holiday, that is, except for Chanukah. Chanukah is entirely absent from the Bible, and but for a few pages in Tractate Shabbat, it is essentially absent from the vast Talmudic corpus as well. But Chanukah’s light has grown brighter over time—missing from much of the traditional canon, Chanukah has received pride of place in many later works, especially those of the great Chassidic leaders. Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider’s The Light that Unites is a significant contribution in spreading the once hidden light of Chanukah. Consisting of inspirational teachings and stories and containing beautiful artwork, the book is divided into eight chapters, which are further subdivided into thirty-six brief sections—one for each of the thirtysix Chanukah candles. Each of the eight chapters focuses on one of eight major themes of Chanukah identified by Rabbi Goldscheider: peace, love, family, heroism, miracles, hope, unity and holiness. In addition, the book contains a detailed commentary on the blessings and songs surrounding the candle lighting ceremony, and a section of insights into Birkat Hamazon and the customs of Chanukah. The teachings contained in the book come from a wide range of Jewish leaders and thinkers, spanning the generations. This intergenerational gathering is particularly appropriate

because, as Rabbi Goldscheider notes, “the holiday of Chanukah does not just connect us with those around us, but also unites us with those who preceded us and those who will follow.” In these pages, the reader encounters the insights of the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, alongside tales of Chassidic leaders recounted by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, and many more luminaries from the distant past to the present. To give one example of the teachings within, Rabbi Goldscheider offers the following explanation for the custom to light the Chanukah menorah with olive oil: For the Greeks, everything that was externally beautiful was good; to the Jew, everything that is inwardly good is beautiful. The victory of Chanukah was the victory of an inner essence over external appearance, of light over darkness . . . . Although the olive seems to be just a small and undistinguished fruit, its outer appearance is misleading. There is actually so much more to the olive than meets the eye. Inside this tiny fruit is the oil that can light an entire room . . . Seeing the light that emanates from the olive’s oil, we are awakened to the possibilities of light hidden in other places, light packed into the simplest of physical things—waiting to be revealed through our usage and understanding. We are also reminded that if we look beyond the superficialities of this world, beyond the mask of darkness, we can perceive light. The Light that Unites is an invaluable resource for all those seeking to gain inspiration from the illumination of Chanukah.

AND COMING SOON FROM OU PRESS… Megillat Esther Mesorat HaRav With commentary based on the teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Edited by Simon Posner, Eliyahu Krakowski and Moshe Genack OU Press and Koren Publishers, Jerusalem Following the successful format of previous Mesorat HaRav volumes, the Megillat Esther Mesorat HaRav contains the commentary of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik on Megillat Esther and the Ma’ariv service for Purim, collected from a variety of published writings, notes and lectures. The Rav’s philosophical acumen and Talmudic insight fruitfully combine to depict the complex nature of the Purim drama. For the Rav, the Megillah is not merely a single episode in Jewish history, but a timeless story of Jewish, and indeed human, vulnerability. Likewise, Purim is not merely a holiday of jubilation, but contains a concomitant message of distress. The fast of Purim and the feast of Purim form one integrated whole, and the Megillah represents not only a form of Hallel, but of prayer too. This view of Purim, as Rabbi Menachem Genack argues in his introduction to the volume, is characteristic of the Rav’s philosophy overall. “For the Rav, the goal was not to find answers to the questions but to live within the tension and the dialectic, and the only way to accomplish this was through Torah. The ultimate response is that Torah gives meaning to an otherwise absurd existence.” In addition to the Megillah and Ma’ariv commentary, this volume also includes a section of Reshimot, with more extensive halachic analyses based on the Rav’s learning, and a derashah by the Rav on the nature of Purim. Megillat Esther Mesorat HaRav will be a welcome addition to Jewish libraries, both as an original perspective on the Purim holiday and as part of the growing body of the Rav’s works. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION




Boys Israel Leadership Training (BILT) is a leadership program for boys looking to challenge themselves and have an incredible adventure through the land of Israel.


Located in the Pocono Mountains, Camp Maor is for girls entering 5th- 10th grade who are interested in exploring their passion for the performing arts.

JOLT Israel is for highly-motivated teens looking for a unique leadership experience. The culmination of the summer will be running a camp for Israeli children whose siblings have cancer.



Camp Sports focuses on recreational and highly competitive sports leagues in Baltimore, MD, combined with rigorous Torah learning and outstanding trips.

NCSY Kollel is an unforgettable summer experience for boys in Israel with interactive learning, intense sports and great trips.




Euro ICE brings Jewish history to life by exploring Budapest, Prague and Vienna, lands full of rich Jewish culture and history. This co-ed trip culminates in Israel by visiting all the popular sites.

Michlelet is an extraordinary program for teenage girls looking to spend their summer in a productive way by learning Torah, doing chesed and touring Israel.


Next Step aims to give teens a real workplace experience through highly sought after internships while working in one of the most innovative countries of the world - Israel.

Girls Israel Volunteer Experience (GIVE) is for exceptional high school girls looking to experience Judaism through the art of giving back in Israel.


GIVE West provides a select group of girls with a fun and meaningful summer by giving back to communities across the West Coast of the USA.


Israel ID takes boys and girls on an inspirational and exhilarating journey through the land of Israel.


Jewish Overseas Leadership Training (JOLT) is for teens who want to become leaders. Past participants have 90

described their JOLT experience in Poland, Denmark and Israel as having a transformational impact on their Jewish identity.

JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017



The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey (TJJ) is the most affordable Israel trip for public school teens. Teens tour Israel and develop an appreciation for its history and their Jewish heritage.



On The Anne Samson TJJ Ambassadors Poland (TJJ AP) program, public school teens spend a week in Poland before traveling to Israel and touring the land through the lens of Jewish history.


Travel and see Israel through the eyes of the locals and connect to your homeland on a whole new level. Be a part of ReSurf, mentor Israel's youth on this social entrepreneurship surfing adventure! No previous surfing experience is required!


Learn to make a difference in the world through your creativity and passion! Create, design, and implement your own project for goodness while touring Israel and learning how to give in a way that's impactful, personalized, and meaningful.


Travel through Europe on this once in a lifetime all-girls Euro trip. See Europe though the lens of Jewish eyes and visit countries across the continent.


Learn CPR, bleeding control, and how to be a First Responder! Volunteer on an ambulance, and learn how Hatzhalah's state of the art dispatch center operates in Israel.

The Anne Samson TJJ Ambassadors program takes public school teens to the best sights in Israel while they participate in social action, political advocacy and high-level Torah study. NCSY is the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union.

FALL 2017



PHILANTHROPY Ever-pressing and ever-changing needs touch the lives of tens of thousands of Jews around the globe. From teen outreach to family and vocational services for individuals with disabilities to our Israel programming, the OU offers a diverse array of community services to meet growing demands of the Jewish people. In this section of Jewish Action, some of our fundraising activities are highlighted. We invite you to become part of what we do. Today, the need for your generous support is critical. If you want to make a difference, contact Arnold Gerson at

New Mendel Balk CenterA Social Lifeline for Adults with Special Needs By Sara Spielman For young adults with special needs, the evening hours can be especially challenging. “In the evenings, there are limited opportunities for young adults with special needs,” says Chani Herrmann, Director, New Jersey Yachad. “They come home from programs at three or four o’clock in the afternoon and have nothing to do.” Enter the newly opened Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, which serves as a veritable social lifeline for Jewish young adults with special needs. “The response among parents and participants has been tremendous,” says Herrmann. “They love it.” Providing meaningful and inclusive programming, including culinary and STEM workshops, sports, drama clubs and trips, the Mendel Balk Center, opened through the generosity of Ariela Balk, is meeting the pressing social needs of Jewish young adults with disabilities. Mrs. Balk, the parent of Yachad member Yoel, dedicated the center in memory of her late husband, Mendel.

Yachad participants enjoying the Center's opening day event, along with local high school students and community members. Famed singer Mordechai Shapiro (second from left) attended the event. Photos: Shira Sheps Photography

From left: Rebbetzin Chana Reichman, rebbetzin of the East Hill Synagogue in Englewood, New Jersey and a close friend of the Balk family; Donor Ariela Balk and New Jersey Yachad Director Chani Herrmann.

“Mendel was an amazing father and was especially wonderful with Yoel,” says Mrs. Balk, whose son Yoel has been a Yachad member for years. “I am excited to find a special way to honor Mendel as well as help enhance Yoel’s

life and the lives of many others in similar situations.” A global program, Yachad is dedicated to addressing the needs of Jewish individuals with disabilities and promoting their inclusion in every aspect of Jewish life. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Some 200 UCLA college students and alumni are scoring high grades—in philanthropy. Raising close to $25,000 in recent years at the Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus’ (OU-JLIC) annual West Coast Fro-Yo Fundraiser, the much-anticipated November event draws students who want to give back to OU-JLIC, an international program dedicated to supporting Orthodox students on campus. Currently on twenty-four campuses throughout North America and Israel, OU-JLIC places young rabbinic couples on campuses to help Orthodox men and women experience a rich Jewish life while in college. “Coming to college with two hundred people in a class was an overwhelming experience,” says Nikkie Mashian, who graduated from UCLA in June 2017. “OU-JLIC provided a ‘family’ on campus.” Funds raised will go to support and strengthen existing OU-JLIC activities, including organizing minyanim, teaching Torah classes, preparing Shabbat meals and providing a spiritual home for Orthodox students on campus. Making their fundraising event more appealing to a millennial crowd, OU-JLIC West Coast Directors Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan and his wife Sharona, who serve as OU-JLIC educators at UCLA, have re-envisioned the typical shul dinner, creating instead a fun, casual, drop-in or stay-and-schmooze event at a hip frozen yogurt shop in West Los Angeles. 92

JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017


By Yehudit Garmaise

From left: UCLA students Liat Menna, Liat Bainvoll and Tohar Kochav Lev enjoying fro-yo at OU-JLIC’s annual fundraiser at Toppings, a frozen yogurt shop in West Los Angeles.



UCLA Students Major in Giving

From left: OU-JLIC West Coast Director Sharona Kaplan celebrating with UCLA students Liat Bainvoll, Yael Glouberman and Naomi Esserman.

Birthright Israel alumni at a recent Bring Israel Home reunion.

First-Ever BIH Online Campaign Raises $600K in Twenty-Four Hours By Sara Spielman This past September, Bring Israel Home’s (BIH) first-ever online Charidy campaign successfully completed its target goal—and raised $600,000 in twenty-four hours.



A revolutionary Birthright Israel follow-up program under the auspices of the OU, Bring Israel Home seeks to fill a void. “Birthright Israel has brought 600,000 Jews to Israel,” says Rabbi David Pardo, Director of Bring Israel Home (BIH). “That’s remarkable, but the question is, what happens next? How do we ensure these young Jews stay connected to the Jewish community once they return home?” Bring Israel Home hopes to answer that. Through its 100-Point Challenge, Birthrighters are encouraged to participate in a variety of Jewish activities in the three months following their trip. Buses with 75 percent successful completion win a mega-reunion, with the Israeli soldiers from their trip flown in for the occasion. This past summer more than 1,000 Birthright alumni participated in the BIH challenge, with fifteen buses ultimately completing it. The $600,000 will be used to expand the program, reach more Birthright alumni, and continue to engage generations of young people in Jewish life. “BIH is the only program that really keeps Birthright participants connected to Jewish life immediately after their return,” says Rabbi Pardo.

Top: Yachad participants and community members enjoying the silent DJ at the event. From left: Moshe Rosenberg, Lenny Sutton, Irwin Leventer, Naftali Stubin, Ronnie Harary and Avi Tsadok. Inset: From left: Event host Beatrice Sutton with Rebbetzin Emily Labaton and Amy Betesh.

Sephardic Community Supports Inclusion By Yehudit Garmaise Reconnecting with the Sephardic community in Deal, New Jersey, Yachad sponsored an end-of-summer barbeque this past August, which drew some 100 community members, most of whom were old Yachad friends. Held at the beachfront home of Beatrice and Jeffrey Sutton in Long Branch, New Jersey, the intimate reunion drew dozens of Yachad “alumni” who had been Yachad members or volunteers when they were growing up, and are deeply committed to Yachad’s mission of inclusion. Yachad is the only international organization promoting inclusion for children and adults with disabilities in the broader Jewish community via social programming for all age groups, Shabbatonim, camping programs, Israel Birthright trips and other much-needed programs. “So many families emphasized how much they value Yachad’s message of inclusion, and that they want to continue to impart that message of inclusion and participation to their children,” says New Jersey Yachad Director Chani Herrmann. “Many of these former volunteers have their own kids in high school who can now volunteer and participate in our programs,” says Rebbetzin Emily Labaton, who had been involved with Yachad back in the 1990s and conceived of the barbeque. Funds raised at the event are going to support Yachad’s wide array of inclusive programs for children and adults with disabilities. “Yachad is excited about having have more of a presence in the Sephardic community in Deal,” says Herrmann. “It’s a wonderful and giving community and we look forward to a continued partnership.” Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION



New Torah Unifies St. Louis Community By Yehudit Garmaise Unifying the youth of his community through the one item all Jews have in common, our Torah, has been a dream of Rabbi Mike Rovinsky, St. Louis Jewish Student Union (JSU) Director for several years. That dream has become reality thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Gloria Feldman. A Holocaust survivor, Mrs. Feldman was deeply moved by the Torah of Unity Project and has underwritten all related expenses in memory of her two brothers and the 1.5 million children who were murdered in the Holocaust. Why JSU? “JSU is the most successful organization in our community when it comes to finding and connecting our teens to their Jewish heritage. The funds raised will help JSU achieve even greater impact,” says Mrs. Feldman.  Since the project’s launch in March, dozens of Jewish youth, from preschool through college-age, have learned how a Torah is made and about the importance of Jewish unity. “I explain that just as a letter of the Torah that’s cracked or missing renders the entire Torah invalid, if one single Jew is disconnected from the broader Jewish community, the entire 94

Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION



Top: The daughters of Erin Schreiber, Director of Hillel at Maryville University, with Rabbi Mike Rovinsky as he adds a letter to the Torah. Inset: Dozens of Jewish youth, from preschool through college-age, have learned how a Torah is made through the “Torah of Unity” Project.

Jewish people are incomplete,” says Rabbi Rovinsky, known as “Rabbi Mike.” Then the group appoints Rabbi Mike to write letters in the Torah on their behalf. The project has raised $139,000 towards the $200,000 goal. Following the Torah’s completion on December 3 at the JSU Annual Gala, the Torah will be used by local day schools and various youth groups. “The ultimate goal of this very special project is to inspire the next generation with the realization that we are all one family, regardless of how we elect to practice, or not practice, our Judaism, and like the goal of JSU in general, this project strives to do that one letter at a time,” says Rabbi Mike. To participate in this special mitzvah, visit overview-torah-of-unity-campaign or call Rabbi Mike at  314-498-6279.


MIAMI MARATHON & HALF MARATHON Running Hand in Hand for Disability Inclusion

1.28.1 8


Team Yachad participants commit to raise sponsorship money to benefit Yachad programming





New Location!





including Pre Race Pasta Party & Post Race BBQ







Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, is dedicated to enhancing the life opportunities of individuals with disabilities, ensuring their participation in the full spectrum of Jewish life. Yachad is a program of the Orthodox Union.

Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION



$100,000 & OVER


Thank you

for your generous annual support of our vital programs, including: YACHAD Inclusion for people with disabilities OU-JLIC Supporting Jewish life on college campuses NCSY Life-changing teen empowerment and inspiration program OU ISRAEL Outreach to at-risk youth, support for soldiers and olim SYNAGOGUE & COMMUNITY SERVICES Educational content, programs, consulting for synagogues and communities IFS BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL Connecting Jewish youth with their heritage BRING ISRAEL HOME - Connecting the Birthright inspiration to everyday life for thousands of trip alumni OU ADVOCACY CENTER Promoting Jewish interests in the halls of government TEACH ADVOCACY NETWORK Fighting for Jewish schools to receive fair government funding OU TORAH Providing a broad array of online Torah study opportunities OU PRESS Publishing insightful and compelling works on Jewish texts


$50,000 - $99,999



$25,000 - $49,999


Members of the OU Benefactor Circle lead through their philanthropy. We applaud them all for their commitment, those whose names appear as well as those choosing to remain anonymous. We invite you to join them in making a difference

OU.ORG/BENEFACTOR To learn more about the OU Benefactor Circle or to become a member, please call Arnold Gerson, Chief Institutional Advancement Officer, at 212.613-8313 or email agerson@





Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION




$18,000 - $24,999



$10,000 - $17,999




$5,000 - $9,999



Due to the printing deadline, we apologize for any omissions. This listing includes annual donors through November 10, 2017. Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION If you wish to be acknowledged, please contact Elaine Grossman at



By Hayyim Angel Maggid | Jerusalem, 2017 | 157 pages Reviewed by Rachel Besser

Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi: Prophecy in an Age of Uncertainty


he time period of Shivat Tzion (when the Jews returned to the Land of Israel from the Babylonian exile) portrays the struggles of a community in flux, one in which neither purpose nor journey is clear. The issues of the Second Temple period are perhaps the most relatable to the struggles of modern-day Jewry, and yet the books that portray this time are often overlooked and understudied. As a result, Rabbi Hayyim Angel’s work, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi: Prophecy in an Age of Uncertainty, adds not only to the corpus of Biblical exegesis, but opens up a time period that the modern-day student would be wise to consider in shaping his or her religious worldview. The story begins in 539 bce when Cyrus the Great of Persia inexplicably allows his Persian subjects to rise up from their captivity and return to their homeland to build a Temple to God. While the Book of Ezra glorifies the mission as the culmination of the redemption prophecies of Jeremiah, only a small group of wide-eyed and hopeful immigrants answer the call and make the difficult journey to a desolate and dangerous land, the rest of Jewry content to live out their lives

in the Diaspora in relative ease and await the coming of the Messiah. The fears of the Persian Jewish community seem well founded when instead of a glorious homecoming, the returnees are met with both internal and external difficulties. Internally, the group is fractured. The older generation, who had experienced the glory of the Temple of Solomon are embittered by the plight of the Second Temple. They scoff at the meager foundation that the new community was able to build for the Temple and spread ill-will toward the leaders. The younger generation, who had been content with the smaller and less glamorous model, is suddenly unsure whether to continue supporting the new building. A much-anticipated dedication ceremony ends in discord. All the while, the larger community in the Diaspora watches events unfold in faraway Israel, waiting to see if this is truly the time of redemption where God will reveal His glory, or just another stage in the unfolding narrative of the wandering Jew. Politically, the Judean community is not faring much better than they are religiously. When the Jewish leader Zerubbabel rejects the help of the nearby Samaritans, they in turn send

lobbyists to advise Cyrus to withdraw his support from the Jews, which he does. The community, so full of hope, turns its attention to more mundane matters of farming and building homes. To make matters worse, a short time later, a famine rips through the country. Any thoughts of beginning the large building project are redirected toward wrestling food from the parched land. The Jews turn their backs on Jerusalem and for eighteen years the Temple foundation stands only as a reminder of what could have been. It is this dismal scene that the last prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi enter. Armed only with the word of God, they must persuade a defeated people to defy all logic and dedicate themselves to God and to each other. They must simultaneously uplift a despondent people, navigate a relationship in which most Jews are not living in the Jewish homeland, and teach a people to relate to God when His presence is no longer manifest through miracles and prophecy. Rachel Besser teaches Tanach and philosophy at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, where she also serves as the Nach Department chair and is a member of the Israel Guidance Team.

Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION


“The siddur is the choral symphony the covenantal people has sung to God across forty centuries” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

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The heart of this volume is encapsulated by the subtitle of this book—Prophecy in an Age of Uncertainty. One of the major themes that Rabbi Angel develops in this book is the uncertainty surrounding messianic redemption at this time. The shocking nature of the Cyrus redemption, which allowed the Jews to return to their ancestral homeland, a political move without precedent in the ancient world, seemed to radiate God’s presence. This messianic view was bolstered by the timing of the event, which followed an almost exact timeline of Jeremiah’s prophecy. Both the community in Persia and in Israel, however, were skeptical. Rabbi Angel describes in the volume how the Shivat Tzion redemption did not include elements of the messianic redemption that the community had expected, including the ability to build a large and expensive Temple to parallel that of Solomon. It was additionally

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It is hard to escape the parallels between the early Second Temple generation and contemporary times. missing spiritual elements of the Temple such as the Ark of the Covenant. The community in Persia was content to wait while the community in Israel was despondent and stopped building the Temple. The burden to help navigate this crisis and forge a way forward fell to the three last prophets: Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. It is hard to escape the parallels between the early Second Temple generation and contemporary times, as both groups of Jews contemplate the religious meaning of the return to Zion and attempt to understand their personal roles in the process of redemption. Rabbi Angel describes the tension of the community as wondering “whether this complex period was indeed a period of redemption.” Rabbi Angel notes that God did not manifest His presence even after a community was established in Israel and the Second Temple built. “The Jews had no king; they were weak and vulnerable, and the Persian Empire dominated the region.” Haggai and Zechariah exhorted the people to recognize the messianic potential of their era and dedicate themselves to serve God to realize this potential.

ADVERTORIAL prophetic unfulfilled Sue This Spertus shares:insight, “Israelihowever, etrogimremained are grown for ritual and the Second Temple generation did not witness the rather than culinary purposes. They are not as flavorful as redemption during their era. citrons grown for cooking in Morocco, Sicily and Spain. For The uncertainty of the time period persisted with this reason, I have added a lemon and a tangerine to the the Jewish community being split for the first time in recipe. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself with an history between two major centers—one in Israel and etrogone windfall, it’s That well Rabbi worthAngel the effort of making a large in Persia. includes in this volbatchume of schnapps. Decant the liqueur into small bottles a brief commentary on the contemporary Book to give of as Esther, special which gifts totakes friends. ” in the parallel center, place

speaks to the broadness of the Jewish community at 1 orange, washed the time. Both the Jews of Israel and of the Diaspora 1 large or 3–4tovery small lemons, washed to God at a time needed reimagine their connection 3 citrons, washed when His presence was concealed. The fact that God’s 1 bottle vodka, bottle cap of Esther also Name doessave not the appear inand the Book Sugarspeaks to the waning of the prophetic ideal during this time period. The last three prophets, Haggai, Zecha1. Use a vegetable peeler to apeel thebetween orange and lemon(s). riah and Malachi, form bridge the classicaloff time of prophecy, which the prophets Cut andperiod discard the ends ofinthe citrons. Peel the citconveyed intimate understanding of God’s rons so that an you have nice ovals of white flesh. will Theytoare the people, to a little time pulp in which human initiative in the mostly flesh with or juice. Save the peels. halachic process and lengthwise Torah studyand are cut the each main half con-into 2. Cut each etrog in half duitslengthwise of God’s will. three pieces. Cut out and discard the hard Rabbi work a modern white pithyAngel’s core and the reads Roughly chopcomall the fruit. mentary on all three prophetic books. thanPlace 3. Weigh or measure the combined fruit Rather and peels. giving an overview of the topics covered in the works,of them in the bowl and add one-third less the amount Rabbi Angel comments on each section of each sugar. In other words, if you have 3 cups of fruit,book, add 2 analyzing or sections elucidate cups of sugar.particular Toss andverses mash the fruit andthat sugar together. a theme. Rabbi Angel’s style of commentary merges 4. Cover the bowl lightly and let sit three days, stirring traditional and academic scholarship, citing mediemorning and night. val exegetes such as Rashi or Ibn Ezra, in addition to 5. On the third day, transfer the mixture to a saucepan. Add religious scholars such as Rav Yoel Bin-Nun and Dr. 1 cup of the vodka. Simmer the fruit, stirring, until the Mordechai Zer-Kavod, as well as the scholarship of sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to a boil and cook just unthe academy and relevant references to archeological til discoveries. it starts to turn light caramel color. Remove from the It is ano coincidence that the endorsements heat and cool. on the back of the book range from the yeshivah to 6. Pour mixture thethe academy as into well.a jar. Add the remaining vodka and stir well. Seal the and in ateacher dark, cool place for Rabbi Angel’s jar voice as store a master comes 6–8 weeks. Save the vodka bottle and cap. through in this volume. The exegesis ranges from 7. After weeks, theas schnapps through cheesecloth the 6–8 broad to thestrain minute Rabbi Angel expounds on into a pitcher. Discard the fruit and peels (or savecona few large, overarching themes as well as on technical peels just forabout decoration) and usecommentaries, the funnel to with pourthe the versations language and liqueur vodka bottle. and store in the clarityinto thatthe onesaved would expect fromSeal, a natural teacher. freezer. Serve cold.that Rabbi Angel’s book will be It is for this ice reason invaluable to any educator interested in teaching these Sue’sBiblical Notes: books. Thetiny Jewish community of the Shivat Tzion not In Israel, semi-sweet lemons come to the falldid markets. the redemption theIfprophets Theyexperience are especially fragrant andthat juicy. you findthought them, by was imminent. all means use a few. They did, however, leave a rich legacy of thought inform struggles of the covered If the citronsthat are can green, ripenthe them in a lightly modern Jewish experience. It is because of box, along with a few yellow apples. It can takethis a couple of community we know how toand reweeks until they and ripenitstoleaders yellow.that Check periodically naturalistic the loss of someplacenavigate apples ifa they start toredemption, go bad. thing as integral as prophecy, and the splintering of the Jewish community into two centers. In opening up this era and these works, Rabbi Angel reminds us that there truly is nothing new under the sun.

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merican Friends of Ateret Cohanim is a non-profit organization that supports the projects of Ateret Cohanim in Jerusalem. Ateret Cohanim aims to fulfill a generations-old dream of rebuilding and securing a united Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty, thereby strengthening its Jewish roots while reestablishing the once-thriving Jewish communities that were destroyed by Arab pogroms under the coordinated efforts of the Arab countries surrounding Israel before 1967. Ateret Cohanim champions the inalienable right for Jews to live in peace and security anywhere in and around the Old City of Jerusalem (East Jerusalem) and provides services to the nearly 1,000 families that live in these areas. Projects are centered around the educational, social and recreational needs of these families as well as providing security to protect them as they go about their daily lives.






Call toll-free

1.877.LEVAYA .OU Executive Offices: 98-60 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills, NY Winter 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION 101 Fall 5778/2017 JEWISH ACTION 77

By Rabbi Menachem Genack OU Press | New York, 2017 | 362 pages Reviewed by Ezra Schwartz

Gan Shoshanim, Vol. 3


n his letter about Rabbi Menachem Genack, printed in Gan Shoshanim, Vol. 3, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik describes him as an Ish HaEshkolot. Found in the mishnah and gemara (Sotah 47), this term refers to a multifaceted individual, one who excels in diverse areas and whose breadth of knowledge spans many fields. This description certainly applies to Rabbi Genack. The chief executive officer of OU Kosher and a rosh yeshivah at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Rabbi Genack, the author of Gan Shoshanim, is also known for his political connections and in-depth knowledge of American history. But Rabbi Genack qualifies as an Ish HaEshkolot in other significant ways, which come across very clearly in his latest sefer; in it, he quotes talmidei chachamim from all segments of the frum world. Remarkably broad, he refers to the Rav, Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik and Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein as well as to Rabbi Nisson Alpert, and l’hibadel l’chaim, Rabbi Hershel Schachter. At the same time, we read of conversations he has had with Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel, Rabbi Avrohom Ausband, Rabbi Daniel Lander, Rabbi Sholom Spitz and Rabbi Mordechai Krausz. In this intellectually engaging collection of essays, Rabbi Genack addresses subjects relating to Seder Moed, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim and Talmudic topics. Rabbi Genack’s analysis is most often focused on the


JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

position of Rambam. He generally develops a chakirah—an intellectual query that most often presents two distinct ways to understand a particular point— and demonstrates how the Rambam sides with one of these approaches. He then proceeds to show the halachic outcomes (nafka minas) of the two approaches and often links the issue to a larger point. This focus on chakirah and Rambam is the hallmark of Brisker lomdut. But Rabbi Genack’s sefer epitomizes the Brisker derech in another way as well: he applies known Brisker concepts in novel ways. For example, he expands upon the concept of shirah, lyrical song or poetry, applying it to the mitzvah of sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim. He explains that the mitzvah is not just to tell the story but to do so in a lyrical manner. For this reason the author of the Haggadah focuses on verses taken from the mikra bikkurim, the bikkurim recitation that also contains a dimension of shirah, rather than on verses which directly discuss Yetziat Mitzrayim. The essays in this work, all of which are in Hebrew, are brief and readable. They cover halachic topics one would expect from the CEO of OU Kosher, such as: May one grant hashgachah, kosher certification, to a company where cooking will take place on Shabbat, or would such a certification be “mesaye’a yedei ovrei aveirah—assisting those who perform aveirot”? What is the status of animals that traditionally were

not eaten in Jewish communities? Can animals be considered kosher absent a clear mesorah? Rabbi Genack also provides a halachic analysis of chametz she’avar alav haPesach—chametz that was in the possession of a Jew on Pesach. He discusses the intriguing case of a non-Jewish factory owner who has a Jewish partner. The non-Jewish owner goes ahead and arranges for the sale of chametz. As is well known, non-Jews are halachically excluded from engaging as an agent, a shaliach. Can the sale conducted by an appointed rabbi in such a case be valid? Addressing non-kashrut related matters as well, Rabbi Genack explores the scenario where one lights Chanukah candles on a Friday night—which happens to be the first night of Chanukah—but fails to recite Shehecheyanu at the time of lighting. Instead, he recites the blessing after the candles are already lit, although it is not yet Chanukah. Does he fulfill his obligation to recite Shehecheyanu, since the berachah was neither recited when he performed the mitzvah nor on the yom yov itself? After a thorough analysis, Rabbi Genack concludes that the individual has in fact fulfilled his obligation. An added bonus in this volume is the inclusion of a section of divrei Torah authored by Rabbi Kenneth (Chaim Avraham) Schiowitz, Rabbi Genack’s son-in-law, who serves as the rabbi of Congregation Shaare Tefillah of Teaneck and chair of the Talmud Department at Ramaz Upper School. Known as a master educator, Rabbi Schiowitz wrote a number of Hebrew essays on assorted Talmudic topics. Of particular interest is the shiur Rabbi Schiowitz presents on Kiddush Hashem that was delivered by Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Hy”d, the dean of Torat Moshe Yeshiva who was murdered in the Har Nof terrorist attack three years ago. With the author’s crisp writing style and brilliant insights, this excellent sefer is sure to be appreciated by both accomplished talmidei chachamim and laypeople alike. Rabbi Ezra Schwartz is rabbi of the Mt. Sinai Jewish Center in Manhattan.


Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider illuminates this beloved but often only superficially studied holiday. Anyone seeking the true spirituality of Chanukah will find a new appreciation for Chanukah’s message of light and unity.

Wonderful Chanukah gift ideas also available from OU PRESS The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom (Vol. 1): Chayot/Wild Animals

The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table

The Person in the Parasha:

Discovering the Human Element in the Weekly Torah Portion

Books of Jewish Thought and Prayer that Educate, Inspire, Enrich and Enlighten Winter 5778/2017 Available at OUPRESS.ORG




Courtesy of Barbara Bensoussan

When Bad Things Bring Out Good People By Barbara Bensoussan


always thought tragedy was something that happened to other people: the fatal car crash, the devastating diagnosis, the freak accident. I lived in a rose-colored bubble in which normal people got married, raised kids, and the cycle repeated itself tranquilly. That bubble proved as fragile and evanescent as the ones I blow with my grandchildren on the front steps. It burst when our beautiful twenty-eightyear-old daughter, Miriam, suffered an amniotic embolism while giving birth. Doctors struggled for hours to stabilize her, but the long resuscitation left her in a coma with dire predictions about her ability to regain function. Four months later, her neshamah left this world. Miriam, a”h, left behind a husband, a six year old and four year old, and a new baby who looks just like her. Our ordeal took us from Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn to Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan to the long-term-care wing of Monmouth Medical Center in Lakewood, New Jersey. Throughout, our lives became a high-suspense movie where the ending was ever in doubt—and quite possibly wouldn’t be the happy one. It was a grueling exercise in emunah and bitachon. When, after several weeks, Miriam had stabilized and looked like herself again, people would visit and marvel that she looked like a sleeping beauty. Perhaps the allusion to the fairy tale


JEWISH ACTION Winter 5778/2017

was apropos. Sleeping Beauty, you may recall, was blessed by good fairies with beauty and charm. Then a bad fairy, insulted the family neglected to invite her to the party, storms in and gives a curse that she’ll prick her finger on a spindle and die young. As the crowd gasps in horror, a good fairy who happened to be running late (Jewish time?) rushes in. “I can’t undo the curse,” she says, “but I can soften it. Sleeping Beauty won’t die; she’ll fall asleep until her prince comes to awaken her.” You could turn this into a mashal: my daughter will “sleep” until Mashiach, our Prince, arrives to wake the world. But it’s the idea of softening a harsh decree that stands out. It seemed as if Hashem imposed an agonizing gezeirah on our family and community. But it was tempered by the support of that same exceptional family and community, and by the way He gave us time to prepare for the worst while praying for the best. From the minute Miriam became sick, the community came flying to our side. She gave birth on Shabbat, erev Chanukah, and people only found out as the first Chanukah candles were lit. Despite family celebrations, the lounge in the ICU floor burgeoned with community members coming with food, tears of sympathy, and words of prayer and comfort. Sephardic Bikur Holim helped work out arrangements for care of the baby and other children; askanim helped negotiate the confusing morass of insurance coverage. Orthodox doctors stopped by to check on Miriam’s care and offer counsel; Rebbes and rabbis came to give berachot. When I would finally run home to sleep that first week, my head swam not just from stress but the sheer number of people I’d met all day. Miriam was transferred to Columbia, on the hope that its state-of-the-art Neurology Department could help her. Instead, Columbia gave up. We had to enlist the aid of Chayim Aruchim, which assists frum families in making health care decisions according to halachah, to prevent the hospital from discontinuing life support. After much arm-twisting, we transferred her to Monmouth South.

Lakewood proved to be salubrious for Miriam, at least initially. Her kidneys began working; her wounds healed; her face regained its smooth complexion. Again, the community rallied to help us—this time, the good people of Lakewood and Deal as well as Brooklyn friends, family and people who had simply heard of the situation and wanted to offer support. Miriam Chaya bat Bracha became everyone’s favorite mitzvah effort: Ashkenazim, Syrians, Moroccans, Lubavitchers, other Chassidim. Not only did she have round-the-clock visitation, she became the impetus for a slew of berachot parties, sheitltrimming parties, asifahs (gatherings) and Tehillim groups. After an asifah in which Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein spoke about the need to push ourselves the extra mile to make shalom, we heard myriad stories of people who had made peace with ex-friends and family members, sometimes after many years. Many people began taking on stricter mitzvah observances—tefillin, tzeniut, lighting Shabbos candles early—as a zechut for her. It was as if the Jewish community was waiting for a spark to ignite its spiritual might, and the plight of a young mother felled by childbirth motivated them to shake the heavens and push themselves to grow in hopes of a miracle. Sadly, the miracle we worked so hard to elicit didn’t happen. Miriam contracted an infection and passed away Rosh Chodesh Iyar. I don’t know where my family would be if our community, and Hashem, hadn’t carried us along and kept us from total despair throughout. A couple of weeks ago, my daughterin-law texted a photo she’d taken of a car parked in our neighborhood. It sported a bumper sticker that made my heart stop. “Miriam bat Bracha changed my life,” it read. Miriam changed all our lives. May we continue to grow, and only from good things. Barbara Bensoussan has worked as a university instructor and a social worker and currently writes for Jewish newspapers and magazines.


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Profile for Orthodox Union

Jewish Action Winter 2017  

Magazine of the Orthodox Union

Jewish Action Winter 2017  

Magazine of the Orthodox Union