A Peek at the Week

It has been another active week on a wide variety of fronts. One especially happy occasion was the chanukas habayis at Congregation Beth Aaron in Teaneck on Sunday, in whichRabbi Steven Burg and I were fortunate to participate. It’s a beautiful expansion, with the addition of a social hall and beis medrash in addition to enlarging the sanctuary. Congratulations must be extended to Larry Kahn for accomplishing the shul’s goals for construction on time and within budget – you have no idea how hard that can be for an institution such as a synagogue when undergoing such a renovation!

The Shabbos preceding the chanukas habayis, Executive Vice President Emeritus Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb served as scholar-in-residence at Beth Aaron. He spoke on the topic of the beis hak’nesses from three aspects. The first was that of Rav Kook, who addressed the tzibbur characteristic of a shul. Next was the Sridei Aish, who addressed the question of “where are we?” both physically and spiritually when we’re not in shul. Finally, Rabbi Weinreb tied the discussion to the parsha through the words of Rav Yitzchak Dov Koppelman ztz”l, who connected the centrality of tefilla with bikkurim.

Speaking of scholars-in-residence, while Rabbi Weinreb was in Teaneck, I was honored to serve as scholar-in-residence at Ahavath Torah Congregation, an OU member shul located in Englewood, NJ. On Friday evening, at a dessert reception, I spoke on“Mindfields: The Rambam’s Analysis of the Six Spiritual Roadblocks That Preclude Teshuva (Repentence).” Shabbos morning featured “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: The Jewish Version.” Other presentations included “An Analysis of the Rosh Hashana Mussaf: Why Rosh Hashana Mussaf is the Most Misunderstood Prayer” and “Sustainability of the Orthodox Family: Challenges and Opportunities.”I was also privileged to meet with Drew Parker, president of the shul, as well as mara d’asraRabbi Shmuel Goldin and associate rabbi Rabbi Chaim Poupko.

Sunday was the Inaugural Legislative Breakfast, held at Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck. Over 300 residents from Bergen County and beyond joined almost 30 state senators and assemblymen to discuss issues of concern to the Jewish community. A number of members of the OU Steering Committee were in attendance including OU President Dr. Simcha Katz, Chairman of the Board Stephen J. Savitsky, Roy Spiewak, Manny Adler,and IPA chair Yehuda Neuberger, plus many members of the staff. The primary goal of the event was to introduce the community to their legislators and to encourage activism in the political process. Similar events are planned for elsewhere throughout New Jersey. Of course, tuition costs were the primary issue on many people’s agenda and heavily discussed. Assemblyman Gary Schaer raised great interest with his remarks on the subject in which he spoke of a bill he’s promoting that would help students in private schools. Kudos to New Jersey Regional Director of Public Policy Josh Pruzansky for this important and impactful gathering. You can read more about it here.

One especially noteworthy event this week was a phone call I shared with Dan Shapiro, US ambassador to Israel. As you are no doubt aware, the potential UN vote on the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state is heating up to the boiling point. Ambassador Shapiro was kind enough to reach out to me on behalf of the administration so that the OU leadership would be apprised of the US position and Israel’s position on this crucial impending development. We all wait with bated breath to see how this matter will unfold and we appreciate the hand extended by Ambassador Shapiro to keep us informed.

My three-part lecture series on the tefillos the the Days of Awe continues at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck. This week, the topic is “Grappling with and Confronting the Rosh Hashana Machzor.” This series is held on Thursday evenings, is offered free of charge, and is open to the public.

The ninth annual Yachad High School Leadership Training Shabbaton will be held this Shabbos at the Stamford Hilton in Connecticut. The focus of this Shabbaton is on acquiring important leadership skills and experience in working with the special-needs population. Last year close to 150 students attended and everyone was greatly impacted by the sensitivity workshops and leadership training led by Yachad’s professional staff. Students will again be attending from such schools as the Yeshivah of Flatbush, Frisch, Magen David, Ramaz, Kushner, Hillel, SAR, and other yeshivot in the New York/New Jersey area as well as students from many schools around the country. Participating high schools report that students who have attended in the past have brought a great deal of enthusiasm and leadership back to their schools and their communities. We look forward to equally great results from this year’s event.

Finally, it is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to OU Deputy Director of Public PolicyHowie Beigelman. For the past six and a half years, Howie has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Jewish people, both on the ground and on the Hill. Now, as he departs to assume a position as a member of the executive communications team for the Display Technologies division of Corning, Inc., we wish him success in new challenges that lie ahead. We know that Howie will remain passionate and involved in the issues that affect the Jewish community and that he will continue to be active in advocacy even if not in his daily professional capacity. Words cannot adequately thank him for all he has done for the OU and for members of our community and others nationwide.