In 1988, the world was shocked at the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 passengers and crew were killed, including Joseph K. Miller (z”l). Miller, a lawyer and accountant who was active in Jewish concerns, had also been serving as the OU’s treasurer. He was 56 years old at the time, lived in Woodmere, L.I. and had recently persuaded a gentleman by the name of Stephen Savitsky to “get involved”
Mr. Savitsky, who attended his first Orthodox Union Convention in Philadelphia shortly before the crash, had already been active in his own community as a synagogue president and school board chairman; although leadership positions on a national level were not something he had considered pursuing. But Miller left an indelible impression on many individuals, and that included Mr. Savitsky. For the next 25 years Mr. Savitsky served on the board, ran dinners, traveled on missions, worked the steering committee, and was eventually elected as president. He then went on to serve three consecutive two-year terms, retiring the position this past January to the OU’s new president, Simcha Katz. Retiring the presidential position, however, doesn’t retire Stephen Savitsky, who continues on as Chairman of the Board, is a member of the Steering Committee, and actively represents the OU throughout the continent by extensively traveling to various communities.
“Many people are under the impression that the OU is a New York centered organization,” Mr Savitsky noted, “but we are absolutely committed to developing and supporting our relationships in communities across North America. I’ve had, and continue to have, the great privilege of participating in liaison building weekends with over 40 orthodox Jewish communities both large and small.
I also continue to engage in classes, getting-to-know-you forums and broader events such as the OU’s annual Emerging Jewish Communities Conference. We had an amazing turn out at this year’s EJC Fair in March; we were able to showcase 37 communities with 800 – 1000 attendees. There was a very enthusiastic and positive response and we brought a huge amount of exposure to communities that we believe offer tremendous growth opportunities in the coming years.”
During the course of his many travels and interactions, Mr. Savitsky came to the realization that some of the liveliest discussions concerning Jewish life take place around the Shabbat table. This sparked a creative idea for an audio discussion series which Mr. Savitsky established over three years ago, titled “Around the Dining Room Table”. According to Mr. Savitsky:
“The idea was to enable the airing of important issues in Jewish life via a no-holds barred discussion format with reputable guest speakers. We try to produce a live, 30-minute audio segment every two weeks; there is no script, no editing, and no artificial staging of responses. We’ve archived the episodes, so they are available for listeners at any time via the OU’s web site or can be downloaded as free podcasts via iTunes. “
With over 84 episodes currently available, current titles include: “The Singles Crisis”, “Teenagers off the Derech”, “Outreach in America”, “Scholarship Committees and Lifestyle Decisions”, and “Challenges Facing the Haredi World in the Next Decade”. Two new episodes scheduled for airing include: “Perpetuating Orthodox Life on College Campuses” and “The Best of my Worst Dating Experiences”
To Download via ITunes, please visit: Around the Dining Room Table, Free Podcasts
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.
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