What We Do…
The Department of Community Engagement provides vision, leadership, and programmatic support to Orthodox communities and congregations 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 readily available to provide an array of programming, design and promotional services to implement cohesive and successful programs or give support and guidance to help communities present their own events.
New! Check us out on Youtube! www.youtube.com/user/OUCommunityServices
Who We Are…
Rabbi Judah Isaacs
Director, Department of Community Engagement
Rabbi Judah Isaacs is the Director of Community Engagement. In this capacity, he oversees the Orthodox Union’s work with synagogues, communities and day schools throughout North America to enhance Orthodox Jewish life. Rabbi Isaacs focuses on professional and lay leadership within synagogues, providing guidance and best practices.
Prior to joining the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Isaacs was the Director of Day School Leadership and Sustainability at the Jewish Education Project. For over twelve years, he served as the Director of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s Alliance for Jewish Education. He also is a past President of the Young Israel of Oak Park, where he also served as Chair of the Rabbinic Search Committee and Youth Committee Chair. Rabbi Isaacs holds a MSW from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work of Yeshiva University.
Rabbi Frank Buchweitz
Director, Community Services & Special Projects
As Director of Community Services and Special Projects, Frank has initiated innovative educational programs in the areas of community, synagogue, and adult education for member synagogues. These include local and national educational programs such as Positive Jewish Parenting, Positive Jewish Marriage, missions and conventions to Israel, adult education speakers for communities and synagogues, employment workshops, Kinus Teshuvah pulpit exchanges during the Yomin Naarayim, etc. In addition, social, recreational, cultural, and Chesed programs have been implemented for the singles population.
Associate Director, Community Services
Prior to her position at the Orthodox Union, Judi was the Director of Programming for the National Council of Young Israel, where she provided resources and assistance for branch synagogues and sisterhoods in addition to coordinating programming for singles, women, families and rebbetzins. She has lectured in many venues regarding navigating the dating process for singles and parents as well as on various other women’s and parenting issues. She is also an Adjunct Professor for Bellevue University where she teaches in the College for Professional Studies. She graduated from Douglass College, Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics. She holds a Master’s Degree in Leadership from Bellevue University and certificates in Non-for-Profit Management from Touro College, Desktop Publishing from Queens College and Life Coaching from Bellevue University. She and her husband, Rabbi Sholom Steinig, of the Young Israel of Bayside, have four children and three grandchildren.
Associate Director, Synagogue Services
Regional Director for Long Island & Queens
Yehuda Friedman works with Synagogue Presidents, Boards and Executive Directors throughout North America to strengthen synagogue life by providing professional development resources. Prior to joining the OU, Yehuda was an associate at a major investment bank. He holds a BS in marketing and Management from Touro College. Yehuda and his wife Lori enjoy chasing and trying to keep up with their toddler, Ethan. Follow Yehuda on Twitter! @YehudaJFriedman
Regional Director for Manhattan, Westchester, the Bronx, and Connecticut
Rabbi Dovid M. Cohen recently completed serving nine years as Rabbi of the Young Israel of the West Side, helping to make it one of the most popular and dynamic shuls in
Manhattan. He received his B.A. from Yeshiva University in 1994, graduating with honors in history. He was ordained by the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at YU in 1997 and studied at a kollel affiliated with the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He earned his J.D. at Columbia University Law School in 1999 and is a member of the New York Bar. In 2007, the University of North Texas awarded Rabbi Cohen an M.S. degree in counseling, with a concentration in family therapy.
Rabbi Cohen served on the national board of Yachad, the OU’s flagship program of the National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD). He was also a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, which provides numerous services for rabbis and their communities, and served as a rabbinical judge on the Beth Din of America. His first book “We’re Almost There: Living With Patience, Perseverance and Purpose,” published by Mosaica Press, is soon to be released in stores.
As a Regional Director, Rabbi Cohen engages synagogues and communities to learn how the OU can meet their individual needs.
He is married to Ruchi (Eisenberg) Cohen, daughter of the Chief Rabbi of Vienna.
Regional Director for the Southeast
Naftali grew up in Suffern, NY, where he attended Congregation Bais Torah, led by Rabbi Berel Wein. Naftali credits his family and community in veering his interest towards communal work. With a background in social work, he previously worked at the OU’s office in New York for a number of years as the Director of Community Outreach and Engagement for Yachad.
As the Southeast Regional Director, Naftali works closely with the region’s synagogue rabbinic and lay leadership, as well as local federations and Jewish organizations to connect, network and develop meaningful relationships and provide resources.
Naftali and his wife Shani live in Boca Raton and are members of the Boca Raton Synagogue, an OU-member shul.
Regional Director for New Jersey and Rockland County
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Rabbi Avi Heller has been the Director of Education for the Manhattan Jewish Experience for the last six years. Prior to that, he co-directed the OU’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at Boston University. He has also served as the Director of the Boca Raton Community Kollel, the Rabbi of the BRS West Synagogue and the Bronfman Fellow at Hillel International. He received his BA from Boston University, semicha from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and also completed his MA in Tanach from the Bernard Revel School of Graduate Studies.
He is passionate about teaching and inspiring Jews of all kinds. Rabbi Heller views synagogues as an integral way in which Jewish communities gather to not only learn and pray together, but to draw inspiration and share a vision of Jewish life. His goal as a Regional Director is to bring together, grow and leverage this network of shuls to strengthen them individually and as a whole under the OU umbrella.
He and his wife Shira live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with their three children.
Administrative Assistant, Department of Synagogue & Community Services
As Administrative Assistant for the OU’s Department of Community Engagement, Adina coordinates various programming and support for the department’s work with synagogues and communities across North America. She has worked closely with communities and OU synagogues to support communal growth efforts, including their participation in the OU’s Jewish Communities Fair.
With a strong passion for serving the Jewish community, Adina initiated and organized several fundraising events for various organizations before joining the OU, and graduated with honors from the Lander College for Women with a B.A. in Psychology. She also holds a certificate in Non-Profit Management from the University of Illinois.