The Department of Community Services provides vision, leadership, and programmatic support to Orthodox communities and congregations, both large and small, throughout North America. Our goal is to strengthen our communities, member congregations, and their constituencies, by providing religious, educational, social, and cultural programming on relevant and timely issues that impact upon the lives of individuals and families. We are ready to provide direct services to implement the following programs or give support and guidance to help communities replicate programs.
Download the Programs for Your Community 2010-2011 Word document
View the Programs below
Positive Jewish Parenting
In an ongoing effort to address timely and relevant issues impacting upon families, the Department of Community Services has initiated Positive Jewish Parenting workshops and conferences for communities, synagogues, and schools throughout the country. This has become one of our most popular programs, providing practical suggestions, ideas, and information by mental health professionals on strengthening parenting skills in raising children.
We will design and implement a full marketing plan and turnkey operation, including a flyer, brochure, poster, press release, e-mail, synagogue and school bulletin inserts at no charge. Topics presented may be on early childhood, elementary, or high school levels. A sampling of past programs includes such topics as Maximizing Your Child’s Potential, Setting Limits, Enhancing Communication Skills, Oppositional Behavior, Developing Positive Self-Esteem, Sibling Rivalry, Dealing with the Homework Battle, Affluenza and the Economy, etc. There are various formats for presentation that we will be happy to discuss with you.
Positive Jewish Marriages
This program has a similar format of workshops as Positive Jewish Parenting, but focuses upon strengthening healthy marriages. Enhancing and strengthening the quality of marriage requires ongoing nurturing to be successful. Workshops stress the essential ingredients of developing and maintaining positive relationships through presentations by mental health professionals. There are so many topics to be explored, including: Recognizing and Meeting Needs, His, Hers, and Ours, Expressing Personal Feelings, Conflict Resolution, Strengthening Communication Skills, Financial Impact on Marriage, Time Management, In-Law Relationships, etc.
The results of the National Survey on Marriage Satisfaction are being tabulated as of this writing. The target date for sharing the findings and implications for pre-marital and marriage educational programs should be after the chagim. We trust that the results will be of great assistance to our Rabbanim in planning programs and services to strengthen the Jewish family.
Seven highly successful marriage retreats have taken place in hotel settings within the past few years. Four have been held on the east coast and three on the west coast, providing practical information on strengthening healthy marriages. Please watch for information on a summer retreat scheduled for July 2010 which will attract individuals from various parts of the country. We should have more detailed information available beginning January 2010.
Positive Jewish Dating and Shidduchim
This program follows the successful formula of Positive Jewish Parenting and Positive Jewish Marriages. This program consists of a series of workshops for parents and singles on practical approaches to successfully navigate the challenge for singles today.
Workshop topics include:
• Helping Your Child Develop a Positive and Healthy Attitude Towards Finding a Mate
• How Involved Should Parents be in the Dating Process?
• Red Flags During the Dating Process
• How to Network
• Realistic and Unrealistic Expectations
Increasing Membership and Involvement through Outreach
The Orthodox Union seeks to bring marginally affiliated and unaffiliated Jewish men and women and their families into communal synagogue life by empowering synagogues and their membership to reach out to them.
A “How-To” guide entitled ‘Reaching Out…Changing Lives’ has been developed for reaching out to unaffiliated, marginally affiliated, and those new to Torah observance in order to aid in the development of a heightened sense of Jewish identity and identification. This guide, together with an accompanying workshop, focuses on the “nuts and bolts” of how the communal synagogue can initiate an outreach program and incorporate it into its overall mission. An updated colorful poster with the new OU logo of, “Welcome to Our Shul” is available FREE of charge for prominent display, expressing a welcoming attitude to all.
When Serious Illness Strikes . . . and Decisions Have To Be Made
This very practical program focuses upon sharing knowledge with respect to the important decisions that have to be made when illness occurs. This program brings a panel of experts on halachic considerations, ethical wills, medical challenges, legal and financial matters, and family support services to your community. Serious illness can occur at any age, and the more information the family has, the better they will be able to handle the many challenges they will encounter.
The Sandwich Generation/Caring for Elderly Parents
This program focuses upon individuals who have simultaneous commitments of raising their children while helping their elderly parents deal with issues of later life. Presented as a panel discussion, symposium, or seminar, the many challenges and issues raised and the impact on individuals and family members are highlighted.
• Accessing Appropriate Care
• How to Research Physicians
• Financial Considerations
• Therapeutic Services and Agencies
Free Online Registry for Healthcare Directives
As an outgrowth of the health related communal program “When Illness Strikes…” we have discovered that four out of five Americans do not have a written healthcare proxy should they become incapacitated, whether temporarily or permanently. This can easily be resolved through writing a halachic health care proxy/“living will” and registering it online, at no charge, for easy accessibility by all medical/ hospital personnel.
An educational program on what a halachic health care proxy/“living will” is, the importance of having a halachic health care proxy and the FREE registry is available for your community. A halachic health care proxy/“living will” should be prepared by adults of all ages as illness and accidents do not discriminate with age. An example of the importance of having such a form recently took place where a major hospital insisted on putting a “DNR” on a frum female patient over the objections of her adult son because the hospital claimed that she told them, before she lapsed into a state of being unable to communicate her wishes, that she wanted a DNR. Because the son had nothing in writing, it was hard for him to refute this. This situation would not have developed if a written directive would have been in place and easily accessible.
Food, Body Image, and Eating Disorders in the Jewish Community
Over the past several years, societal pressures with regard to body image have contributed to a dramatic increase in eating disorders in the Jewish community. A professional conference held in conjunction with the Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders underscored the importance of this issue this past June and the importance of addressing this problem in communities as part of our “Safe Homes, Safe Schools, Safe Shuls” initiative. We have seen this escalating problem, especially prevalent in the area of shidduchim.
As an outgrowth of the professional conference, we are planning on conducting educational workshops for parents during the year, exploring the role of hunger, shame, body dysmorphia, and self-esteem in the development of eating disorders. These programs will be led by mental health professionals and can be replicated in your community. The Young Leadership Cabinet of the Orthodox Union developed a documentary, “Hungry to be Heard”, focusing on the rising rates of anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders in our community. It aims at providing educational awareness, prevention, and approaches to eating disorders and is available for guided screenings as part of a conference, communal program, or as a stand-alone presentation.
Take 5 for Torah
Take Five for Torah is a unique initiative which allows Rabbanim to broadcast a five minute shiur over the OU Radio, while at the same time highlighting their synagogue and community. Topics include Halacha, Middot, Weekly Sedra, A Taste of Torah, and Thoughts for Shabbat.
A communal symposium, Understanding the Meaning and Ramifications of Bikur Cholim is an excellent presentation which clarifies the various nuances involved in this important mitzvah. The following topics are discussed during this presentation/ panel discussion:
• A Halachic Overview of Bikur Cholim
• Bikur Cholim 101: Practical Advice and Vignettes
• Differences and Parameters of Bikur Cholim: Visiting Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Shut-ins, Hospice; Providing Transportation to Doctors and Hospitals; Cooking and Delivering Meals; Donating Blood, etc.
• Getting Involved and Strengthening Involvement
• Question and Answer Session
Singles Programs and Social Activities
Throughout the year, there are a variety of diverse and exciting singles programming activities and events planned for every age group on a regular basis in the greater New York area. Examples include comedy nights, musical tribute programs, “OU Beautiful Child” hospital visits, Meet and Learn Workshops, ice-skating, Simchat Torah on the West Side, etc.
We are ready to work with communities throughout the country in planning local programs or shabbatonim, providing opportunities for singles to meet. Many of our programs can also be successfully modified and adapted beyond the singles community for the general community.
Tefillah Enrichment Programs
A comprehensive Tefillah initiative has been developed to help inspire a greater appreciation and participation in tefillah, geared for both Rabbanim as well as membership. The program is designed for a two semester per year curriculum. There are a wide range of options available for participation in the Tefillah initiative:
• Weekly Tefillah tips (one pagers) for e-mail/Shabbat distribution focusing on exploring and understanding the Mussaf of Shabbat. These Tefillah tips will be available beginning with Parshat Bereisheet for eleven consecutive weeks. We will be offering explanatory material on Kabbalat Shabbat beginning in January.
• Take 5 for Tefillah — This online program will allow individuals to listen or download audio files on inyanei tefillah which will complement the written weekly tefillah tips. This will be available on Mondays and Thursdays on OU Radio beginning with Parshat Bereisheet.
• Rabbanim are invited to spend a few minutes every Shabbat Mevarchim emphasizing an aspect of tefillah of their choice. We will be listing participating synagogues in the Shabbat Mevarchim effort on our website during the year.
• Tefillah conferences will be held during the year in several communities as a reinforcement of the Tefillah Initiative. Please contact us if your community would like to host a conference.
• In addition to the outline above, a more intensive and all encompassing approach on the entire body of liturgy is also available:
• Posters — A series of full-color posters for display in your Shul lobby will promote messages of decorum and consideration for others during tefillah.
• A Subscription Series — Excellent educational resource material has been available since January through a paid weekly e-mail subscription. There are a total of 67 lessons presented in conjunction with the Shema Yisrael Torah Network, which provides a spiral approach of graduated learning. This user-friendly material may be utilized for personal study, a class on Tefillah, Friday night learning before “Barchu”, etc. The subscription series has been well received by individuals and can also serve Rabbanim as a curriculum for tefillah.
• Maarei Mekomot on Tefillah are geared for Rabbanim based upon the teachings of Rabbi Isaiah Wohlgemuth, providing a compilation of source materials of many of our tefillot.
• An Inspirational Speaker is available for your community focusing on making tefillot more meaningful and personal.
• OU Radio has many wonderful presentations on tefillah by Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President, Emeritus of the Orthodox Union. Rabbi Weinreb draws upon a number of sources including the commentaries of Rabbanim Hirsch, Munk, and Schwab. He also presents material drawn from Chassidic sources and offers numerous insights. The lectures are designed to inform the public of the meaning of our most common tefillot, and to inspire increased spirituality in our prayers.
Integration with Other Departments
Every effort is made to support and work with other departments of the Orthodox Union that benefit member synagogues and communities. This includes OU Kosher, with Kashrut in the Workplace Programs; IPA (Institute for Public Affairs) for political action activities; JLIC (Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus) for programs on Jewish life on the secular college campus; and the OU Job Board, which lists opportunities throughout the country.
Jewish Life on the Secular College Campus
The Orthodox Union strongly encourages enrollment in Jewish universities, but recognizes that many students attend secular colleges. With this in mind, a program featuring a panel discussion has been developed, for parents and students on life on the secular campus. Information is shared on how the Orthodox Union’s Heshy and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) provides for the religious and Jewish educational support of students on fifteen major campuses.
Safe Schools, Safe Shuls, Safe Homes
An area of increasing concern for parents and mechanchim has been alcohol and drug usage by high school students. The Orthodox Union, together with FEGS, the BJE of Greater New York and the Yeshiva Counseling Network, in consultation with principals/rabbanim, have prepared an alcohol and drug prevention/ intervention guidelines for high schools. We are pleased to share this information with you for adoption by your communal yeshivot and day schools. Professional development workshops in the New York area are planned in this area during the academic year for principals, parents, and school guidance counselors with respect to prevention, recognition, and intervention.
There are a number of safety bulletins that have been listed on the OU website on a great variety of relevant topics focusing on these issues. Please take a look at
The Department of Community Services hosts communal conferences with lay and professional leadership focusing on various aspects of synagogue administration and organization during the year. Examples of topics include developing volunteers within the synagogue, fundraising, and board relationships.
Adult Education Speakers/Scholars-in-Residence
We are ready to assist your community in customizing a speaker or Scholar-in-residence to suit your specific needs for a weekday, Shabbat or holiday program.
Emerging Communities Conference
The Orthodox Union sponsored its second annual home and job fair this year showcasing communities from throughout the country who encouraged relocation to their respective cities. Featuring twenty-two communities, the fair presented a unique opportunity for individuals and families within the tri-state area to learn about vibrant Jewish life in other parts of the country.
We will e-mail our member synagogues applications for participation when the next conference date is finalized.
Thank you very much,
Community Services and Special Projects