OU Calls on Its Synagogues to Observe Sabbath for Jerusalem, Nov 17, to Protect City from Division

09 Nov 2007


As part of its multi-faceted campaign to keep Jerusalem from being divided during Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations at Annapolis and beyond, the Orthodox Union today called on its hundreds of synagogues across North America to observe Shabbat Yerushalayim (Sabbath for Jerusalem), Friday evening and Saturday, November 16-17, coinciding with the Torah portion of Vayeitzei.

This follows a request by the OU in October for its synagogues to engage in increased study and prayer on behalf of an undivided Jerusalem.

For Shabbat Yerushalayim, the OU is sending a variety of materials to its synagogues. They include:

• An outline of how to spend the day, from Friday night to the end of the Sabbath, 25 hours later;

• A poster bearing the inscription “Jerusalem: Keep it One. Keep it Ours”;

• A sign with the text of Psalm 122, which includes the verse, “The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that is united together,” for congregants to recite on Shabbat;

• A pamphlet, Jerusalem, The Holy City, just published by NCSY, the OU’s youth program, and featuring Biblical references to Jerusalem and information on how the city is featured in Jewish prayer;

• A list of 20 Practical Ways Synagogues Can Help Jerusalem (e.g., organizing a fundraiser for an organization that supports the needy in Jerusalem; creating a partnership with a synagogue in Jerusalem);

• A model sermon written by OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb;

• Youth programming; and

• Talking points to educate congregants on the issue of Jerusalem.

Alongside its work with its synagogue network, the OU is a member of the Coordinating Council for Jerusalem’s Future, a coalition of American Jewish organizations which is working vigorously to get out the message to policy makers in Washington and Israel that Jerusalem must remain the “undivided, eternal capital of Israel.” In addition, the OU’s Washington-based Institute for Public Affairs has distributed materials to all 535 members of Congress explaining the religious significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people and the risks to Israel entailed by division of the city.

“We work on many levels,” declared OU President Stephen J. Savitsky. “Our synagogues are places of prayer and communication with God. But our Institute for Public Affairs in Washington is skilled in dealing with the political realities we face. Our efforts reinforce one another.”

Shabbat Yerushalayim is a project of the Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services, under the leadership of Stanley Weinstein, Chairman of the OU Synagogue Services Commission, and Rabbi Bini Maryles, Director of the Department. Mr. Weinstein, of Miami Beach, has called for a grass roots campaign at OU synagogues in which they would engage in spiritual and political efforts on behalf of a united Jerusalem.

The Torah portion Vayeitzei deals with the marriage of Jacob to Rachel and Leah and the birth of the 12 Tribes of Israel. According to Rabbi Maryles, “There is a very real connection between Parshat Vayeitze and our Shabbat Yerushalayim. As Yaakov Avinu (Jacob the Patriarch) leaves home, the Torah tells us “vayifgah bamakom” (he encountered the place) to which Rashi (the great medieval commentator) points us to a source that ‘the place’ is none other than Har HaMoriah (Mount Moriah). Yaakov stops, prays, rests and has the dream of the ladder on the spot where our mikdash (the Holy Temple) is to be built. He senses the awesome nature of the place and the presence of holiness. That place is the heart of Jerusalem.”

Rabbi Maryles expressed his belief that there would be a uniformly positive response on the part of the synagogues and their rabbis to turning November 16-17 into Shabbat Yerushalayim. “Given the significance of Jerusalem in our prayers and our lives, it goes without saying that this OU initiative will be enthusiastically received and implemented coast-to-coast in the United States and Canada.”

In still other activities related to Jerusalem, just this week the OU launched its “Defending Jerusalem” website, www.oujerusalem.org., a one-stop, one-click hub for community information and activism to defend Jerusalem against division.

The OU has also written to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert protesting any division of Jerusalem. In a letter to the organization, he responded that he would keep the city united, but was vague enough for the OU to ask for clarifications.

The OU’s national youth program, NCSY, has instituted special Jerusalem programming in its 14 regions across the United States and Canada.