Services Regional Director for the Southeast.
The Orthodox Union Department of Community and Synagogue Services has announced the appointment of Naftali Herrmann as its southeast regional director, to work with synagogues and communities in the southeast, including Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. He will be based in Boca Raton, Florida.
“The OU Southeast Regional office provides resources including services and programming through Yachad, the OU’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities; and NCSY, the OU’s international youth movement,” explained Naftali. “The OU, in fact, is the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and we have always focused on the support of our synagogues. We are now adding a regional director to underscore that commitment — to enable community and synagogue services to provide leadership, resources and programmatic support to southeast Orthodox communities and congregations.”
OU national vice president and lay chair of the Department of Community and Synagogue Services, Barbara Lehmann Siegel of Silver Spring, Maryland, stated, “The synagogue is the cornerstone of Jewish spiritual growth, social bonding, educational enhancement and of deepening Jewish identification and commitment. Naftali Herrmann, the OU’s first southeast regional director, will serve as our ambassador to strengthen the bond between the OU and the region’s Jewish communities, as well as to deepen the relationships among the various synagogue communities.”
Rabbi Judah Isaacs, director of the OU’s Department of Community and Synagogue Services, explained, “After New York, the second largest Jewish community in the United States is in South Florida; we feel it is imperative to fully and robustly service that burgeoning Jewish presence. The OU also aims to bring to the entire southeast network of Orthodox synagogues and communities positive vitality, shared resources, programming ideas, and solutions to varied challenges. We deliver strength in numbers and are a respected, powerful voice in the political arena. Naftali Herrmann will listen, ask and learn from the region’s rabbis and lay leaders, to help determine their communities’ and synagogues’ individual challenges and needs.”
Rabbi Isaacs continued, “Being our ‘man on the ground,’ he will be able to forge deeper relationships with our southern Jewish communities, and will be able to offer the full menu of support that Synagogue Services offers OU member shuls. He will enhance the role of the synagogue as the gateway to the wide range of OU services that runs the gamut of support for all ages and backgrounds. Naftali’s personable nature, his enthusiasm and depth of experience augur well for deepening relationships within both the OU family and the general southeast Jewish community.”
Naftali and his wife Shani live in Boca Raton and are members of the Boca Raton Synagogue, an OU-member shul. Shani works as a pediatric nurse practitioner in Broward County. 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.
Home and Community
“I was very fortunate and blessed to have grown up in a home and community in which the foundation was built on tzedakah and chessed,” he said. “From the leadership of my parents, to the synagogue we all davened and grew in, I was constantly surrounded by people who strove to make the world a better place. I am one of seven siblings. Each of us has blazed our own and unique professional path in life, but what is consistent among us are the values and ideals that our parents instilled within us to do whatever we can each day for Am and Eretz Yisrael. I never had a doubt regarding my desire to work in the Jewish communal world,” Naftali explained.
“I’ve been fortunate to have worked at the OU’s office in New York for a number of years as the director of community outreach and engagement for Yachad,” he continued. “It was there that I gained the mentorship and experience that prepared me for this incredible opportunity here in the South. While this is a brand new initiative, the Southeast office is not an island. I am in constant communication with other regional directors throughout the country and we are joining forces and working together so that we don’t need to recreate the wheel in addressing the different issues in our constituencies.”
Naftali expressed his enthusiasm for how the OU will serve the Southeast. “The OU Southeast regional office’s goals are synonymous with the broader mission of the Orthodox Union,” he said. “We aim to engage, strengthen and lead the Orthodox community by providing religious, educational, social and cultural programming and resources on relevant and timely issues that impact upon the lives of individuals and families. The regional office creates a giant tent to house all current OU Southeast services, while simultaneously developing and addressing the changing and growing needs of our synagogues.”
He continued, “The initial function of the Southeast office will be to connect, network and develop meaningful relationships with the region’s synagogue rabbinic and lay leadership, as well as local federations and Jewish organizations. I come from a social work background and the first step is going to be us listening and learning. We need to better understand each unique community’s story so we can properly address the needs of their synagogues and beyond. Simultaneously, we also need to do a better job of articulating and telling the OU story. Who and what is the OU? What does it mean to be an OU shul? How can the OU help?”
By his actions, initiatives and consultations, it will be Naftali Herrmann’s job to provide the answers.