A LABOR OF LOVE: OU ISRAEL’S PHIL CHERNOFSKY AND OU ISRAEL CENTER CELEBRATE 1,000TH ISSUE OF TORAH TIDBITS, PUBLISHED SINCE 1992
When Phil Chernofsky puts his mind to something, he is not easily deterred. Twenty years ago, in 1992, Phil put out the first edition of Torah Tidbits, a publication of OU Israel. The distribution of what was then a single-page photocopied flyer was limited to two Jerusalem synagogues, one of which was where Phil davened.
Fast forward to 2012 — twenty Torah cycles — and TT, as it is known, has just published its 1,000th issue, which OU Israel celebrated with a festive event at a Jerusalem theater, and which featured a dedication page in the milestone issue. Weekly some 10,000 copies of the 64-page booklet are distributed by a network of scores of volunteers to more than 400 synagogues, hotels and stores from the Golan Heights to Eilat, and it is sent to thousands of email subscribers worldwide – including the United States, Canada, England, France, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong and Romania; countless others read it on the OU Israel website, www.ouisrael.org. The primary audience in Israel is olim, English speakers who have made aliyah. Visitors to Israel who get into the habit of reading TT while in the country, continue to depend upon it when they get home.
Phil Chernfosky, Creator and Editor of Torah Tidbits and OU Israel Educational Director
Phil Chernofsky, the Educational Director at the Seymour J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center, also known as the OU Israel Center, continues to produce issue after issue, year after year, parsha after parsha, aliyah after aliyah, even while he is on vacation. (“The laptop comes with me,” he says, “and TT gets done.”)
For its readers, Torah Tidbits is as much a part of the weekly parsha as the seven aliyot read in the synagogue. And, in fact, the publication divides each parsha into its aliyot, providing details about each, rather than considering the weekly portion as a whole. “He uses every possible sefer you can think of in his commentaries,” said Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director of OU Israel.
That’s not all TT has. A typical issue will have candle lighting and Havdalah times for Israel and communities worldwide in addition to a variety of other z’manim; the statistics of each parsha — verses, words, letters, number of mitzvot, etc.; explanation of the weekly Haftorah; other Torah commentaries; the Webbe Rebbe Q&A column; recipes; SDT, a compilation of Short Divrei Torah for the entire year; an explanation of the parsha calendar and of the double parshiot. Clever weekly illustrations called PP, Parsha Pix, seemingly chosen at random, bring the portion of the week to life through Phil Chernofsky’s ingenious explanations. There is also a listing of OU Center programs and communal news, including milestone events, so that the olim can keep up with one another.
“I like to call TT the loudspeaker of the OU in Israel, where we not only have the ability to teach Torah inside the Center, but to let the world know outside what OU Israel does; it’s become a major means of communications for the religious, English-speaking population in Israel, with of course, Torah being the major emphasis,” explained Rabbi Berman.
“Phil Chernofsky is the man who envisioned Torah Tidbits, dreamed it, created it and brought it to where it is today,” Rabbi Berman said. “I look forward to seeing the 2000th issue.”
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