The pages of this report reflect the focus and achievements of the Orthodox Union over this very unusual year. Often overlooked, however, are the myriad partnerships critical to these achievements and essential to the OU’s role as a broadly focused, national organization.
Most OU endeavors are composed of partnerships. American Orthodoxy’s many communities coordinate to elevate kashrut standards, and organizational coalitions address legislative and regulatory agendas, on both a state and national platform.
The Orthodox Union’s partnerships with local shuls, educational institutions, rabbonim, and poskim form the essence of the OU’s identity. NCSY and Yachad operate in partnership with local shuls, and JLIC partners with Hillel and World Mizrachi. We often address communal policy issues in conjunction with the Rabbinical Council of America. Rabbis and master teachers of Torah are integral to the OU’s burgeoning spectrum of Torah learning, such as All Daf, the Smichat Chaver Program, and the Women’s Initiative’s ever- growing range of Torah content. And thanks to our poskim’s wisdom and indefatigable commitment to the needs of the community, the OU is a conduit for the most crucial areas of halachic consultation and guidance.
But perhaps most significant is the Orthodox Union’s internal partnership between professional staff and lay volunteers. While the creativity, passion, and commitment of staff are clearly the engine that drives institutional success, volunteerism is core to the OU’s functioning and culture. OU lay involvement includes not only board and commission participation, and generous philanthropic support, but also hands- on involvement, such as the legions of student and adult volunteers essential to the magic of an NCSY or Yachad Shabbaton.
The OU is truly a communal institution, and it is the community itself that forms and frames its achievements.
Merubim Tzarchei Amcha, “The needs of Your people are many.” This phrase occupies a prominent place in our Selichot and Yom Kippur liturgy, and invariably its expression elicits the deep sigh of the overwhelmed. How can we even begin to address the many issues we face?
The past year certainly could have fit that bill. The challenges faced by society as awhole and by our community in particular were many, varied, and often unprecedented.
Yet, what we are privileged to observe is a community that did not react with a resigned sigh, but with assertiveness and creativity. Individuals—with or without formal positions of leadership or responsibility—stepped forward to meet the obvious needs. They then dug deeply to identify additional areas where the community was lacking, and proceeded to craft solutions to address them. Klal Yisrael thus follows in the footsteps of Avraham, who did not simply react to the obvious needs of those he encountered, but proactively scanned the horizon for the next opportunity to serve others (Avot d’Rabbi Natan,ch.7).
This is our charge at the Orthodox Union. In the pages of this report, you will read of a dizzying range of initiatives impacting tens of thousands the world over. The accomplishments are impressive, but they are no cause for complacency. Whatever has been accomplished has been propelled by the drive to always do more, a spirit that inspires our lay leadership, staff, and the communities and individuals that we are privileged to serve.
Much has been accomplished but there is so much more to be done. We pray that G-d grant us the strength, wisdom, creativity, and courage to be a part of Klal Yisrael’s movement to a more perfect future.
In changing and challenging times like these, the Stockdale Paradox, a concept developed by management guru Jim Collins, provides an instructive pathway to move forward:
You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
At the Orthodox Union, we have lived this paradox. We have combined faith in our mission with operational discipline to pivot amid the turmoil and transformation, as you will read in the coming pages.
Many stories are not included, such as one that occurred at the end of October. With so many schools in the New York area closing, our new head of school at IVDU, Rabbi Michoel Druin, and his dedicated team did everything they could to reopen for their special needs clientele, supported by the leadership of Avromie Adler at Yachad. Yet, the reopening may not have happened without the extra efforts and advocacy of Maury Litwack and his team at Teach Coalition.Collaborative efforts between programs and teams also provided the driving force behind the creation of Project Community 2020. With over 4,400 participants, we ran more than 100 programsin 26 cities and distributed 30,000 meals to people in need. These efforts demonstrate the OU’s ability to address our fundamental mission while creating programs in an evolving context, confronting the realities of an uncertain time.
Much of what you will read predates my arrival and is due to the efforts of both my professional partner, Rabbi Moshe Hauer, and our incomparable predecessor, Allen Fagin. Nevertheless, I hope you will agree that these people and programs demonstrate the exceptional faith and remarkable discipline that is the Orthodox Union.