OU Calls on Its Synagogues to Engage in Prayer and Study for the Sake of Jerusalem
In the wake of public statements by American, Israeli and Palestinian officials calling into question the fate of Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish People, the Orthodox Union today called on its synagogue network and its NCSY youth program to undertake major efforts, including those of a spiritual nature, to protect the city. At the same time, the OU is playing a major role in creating a political coalition, going beyond the Jewish community, to prevent compromises on Jerusalem from being made at the proposed Israel-Palestinian peace summit in Annapolis this fall.
“We work on many levels,” declared OU President Stephen J. Savitsky. “Our synagogues are places of prayer and communication with God. But our Institute for Public Affairs in Washington is skilled in dealing with the political realities we face. Our efforts reinforce one another.”
Responding to direction from Stanley Weinstein of Miami Beach, Chair of the OU Synagogue Services Commission, the OU is calling on its shuls to be involved in this effort through what synagogues do best – prayer and study – as well as engaging the community at large.
“Jerusalem is uppermost in all of our minds at all times and we pray on its behalf three times a day,” Mr. Weinstein declared. “We are extremely concerned about remarks about giving up any part of Jerusalem that we have yearned for over more than 2,000 years.”
Calling for a grass roots campaign including that of prayer and study in OU synagogues coast to coast, Mr. Weinstein explained, “We have an opportunity to take the negative comments that are being made by various members of the Israeli government regarding dividing Jerusalem, to turn these comments around through positive reinforcement in all of our constituencies of our belief that Jerusalem remains the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish people no matter where they live and the undivided capital of the State of Israel.”
In a letter emailed Friday to presidents and rabbis of OU shuls across North America, Rabbi Bini Maryles, Director of the Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services, wrote:
“You are no doubt aware of the recent distressing news regarding a potential change in the status of Jerusalem. The Holy Land and its Eternal Capital are very close to all of our hearts, and we know that you join with us and all of our brethren in our ahavat Yisrael (love for Israel) and ahavat Eretz Yisrael (love for the land of Israel). The tenuous situation in Jerusalem is very emotional and creates a stressful circumstance for all of us. Nobody knows how the next few weeks will unfold in terms of negotiations with Jerusalem, but one thing is clear. Whenever we are faced with trying situations, we must turn our tefillot (prayers) to Hakadosh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, Blessed be He) and strengthen our emunah (faith).”
“We also turn to you, the spiritual leaders of the community,” Rabbi Maryles continued, “to encourage your congregants to strengthen their tefillot about Yerushalayim and learn more about its holiness. A rabbi recently called the OU to tell us about a powerful custom his shul began. Just as we sing “Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim” (“If I forget Thee, O Jersualem, Psalm 137:5) at the end of a wedding, their entire congregation sings it at the end of davening on Shabbat. This is a powerful way to bring Jerusalem to the forefront and remind people of Jerusalem’s centrality.”
In addition, the OU sent a flyer, “10 Ways You Can Help Jerusalem,” to be displayed at the synagogue; each week the OU plans to send additional ideas. Suggestions include the reciting of Psalms 79, 122, 125, 126 and 137, which have special mention of Jerusalem; increasing Torah study and dedicating this learning to the merit of Jerusalem; donating to an organization that supports the needy in Jerusalem; and placing a picture of Jerusalem on one’s wall.
The OU also called on its synagogues to strengthen their Torah study by beginning the “Nach Yomi” cycle of daily chapters from the Prophets and Writings of the Hebrew Bible; the cycle begins November 1, lasts slightly more than two years, and will be carried on OU Radio, www.ouradio.org.
In the days and weeks to come, Synagogue Services will add to this campaign with more materials and a website dedicated to Jerusalem.
NCSY, meanwhile, under the direction of Rabbi Steven Burg, will create special Jerusalem programming in all its 14 regions coast to coast and is developing videos to send to the regions and schools.
“We strongly encourage you to recognize the imminent need for Klal Yisrael (the Jewish community) to pour out our hearts to Hashem and strengthen our love for our fellow Jews,” Rabbi Maryles wrote to the synagogues. “By recognizing that the status of Jerusalem as our undivided capital is in the hands of God, we can succeed in securing a united Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital.”