OU National Convention, January 14-16, Has Something for Everyone

01 Dec 2010


Jewish leadership. Synagogue skills. Israel-U.S. relations. The high cost of Jewish living. Torah life. Community life. Resolutions and elections. OU Listening Room. These are some of the many themes of the upcoming Orthodox Union Biannual National Convention, OU2011, which will be held Friday January 14-Sunday January 16, 2011 at The Hilton at Woodcliff Lake, NJ, the impressive locale of previous major OU programs. Martin Luther King Weekend has been chosen because many people are off from work Monday and so can take the time to come to New York from around the United States and Canada for the Convention.

“The Convention sessions clearly reflect the character of our organization, presenting all the facets of synagogue life and a huge array of vital issues that impact on the Orthodox community,” declared David Olivestone, OU Senior Communications Officer, and Frank Buchweitz, OU National Director of Community Services, Co-Directors of OU2011.

“By having a two-part Convention, open to synagogue leadership and then open to all, we will touch on the whole range of issues that make up the agenda of the Orthodox Union,” Co-Directors Olivestone and Buchweitz said. “If it touches on Orthodox life in significant way, you can be certain that it will be addressed from January 14-16.”

The Convention will be divided into several components for different audiences, including A Leadership Shabbat, set aside for OU national leaders, joined by Orthodox Union synagogue rabbis, presidents, board members and delegates from around North America. It will feature shiurim on leadership by Rav Hershel Schachter, OU halachic decisor and Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University’s RIETS seminary on “Not Being Politically Correct;” OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil on “The Two Most Powerful Women in Jewish History;” and OU Executive Vice President, Emeritus Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb on “The Reluctant Leader: Halachic Obligations and Aggadic Reflections.”

Saturday night, the Convention is open to all as it moves to OU Member Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, NJ, for the session “The Cost of Jewish Living,” probably the most talked about topic in the Orthodox community today. Anchored by radio host Nachum Segal, it will feature a panel consisting of Robert P. Aronson, President Birthright Israel and The Steinhardt Foundation; Margy-Ruth Davis, Executive Vice President, Perry Davis Associates and community activist; William Rapfogel, CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty; and Dr. Marvin Schick, expert on Jewish education and community observer.

On Sunday, following a resolutions session at which each Orthodox Union member synagogue, depending on its size, can send from two to eight delegates to set the direction of the OU for the next two years, the Convention, once again open to all, will be divided into three tracks and two plenaries from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Participants will be able to choose five sessions from among more than 25 possibilities as follows:

• “Torah Life: Shiurim and classes on topics that will stimulate your thinking,” with presentations by Rabbi Moshe Elefant and Rav Schachter of the OU; Dr. Shira Weiss, Rebbetzin Yael Weil, Rebbetzin Rookie Billet, Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman, Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman, Rabbi Dovid Fohrman, OU Chairman of the Board Harvey Blitz with panelists Jerry Silvman and Rabbi Hershel Billet; and Rabbi Shaul Robinson.

Sessions in this track will include: Daf Yomi (Elefant), “Personal Autonomy vs. Religious Authority (Weiss),” “How Perfect Must a Woman Be? (Weil), ” “Dating and Mating (Billet),” “Halacha Under the Microscope (Reichman),” What is a Heter? (Schachter),” Costs of Free Speech on the Internet (Feldman), Divine Communication (Fohrman), Conversion Controversy in Israel (Blitz, et.al), More Meaningful Tefillot (Robinson).

• “Community Life: Presentations of the OU’s Signature Programming,” with sessions led by OU staff and experts on: Special Needs Children (Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman of Yachad and Yachad parents); Food, Body Image and Eating Disorders (Frank Buchweitz of Community Services plus Dr. Sarah Roer and Dr. Ellen Haimoff); Orthodox Students on Secular Campuses (Rabbi Ilan Haber, Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus); Positive Jewish Marriage (Rachel Pill); Positive Jewish Parenting (Drs. Sylvan and Marcy Schaffer); Contemporary Issues in Kashrut (Rabbis Menachem Genack and Moshe Elefant of OU Kosher); Political Advocacy (Nathan Diament, Howie Beigelman and Maury Litwack, Institute of Public Affairs); Spirituality and the next Generation (Charles Harary representing NCSY).

• “Synagogue Life, high-level workshops for synagogue lay and professional leaders” on: youth programming; sparking shul growth (Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn); theories and practices for synagogue leadership; synagogue strategic planning (Dr. Linda Klonsky); fundraising (Rabbis Steven Weil and Bunny Friedman); the halachic role of gabbaim (Rav Schachter); enhancing spirituality through the musical Mesorah (Chazanim Bernard Beer and Sherwood Goffin); and a panel of synagogue presidents on taking a shul from “good to great.”

Two major topics will be addressed in the plenary sessions:

• The Mesorah: What is the Mesorah? Can it be changed? How does change happen? with Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb;

• The Orthodox Role in the Jewish Community of Tomorrow, a panel anchored by Rabbi Weil, with panelists including Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY; Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of Boca Raton, FL; Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, of Yeshiva University; Jerry Silverman, President and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America; and Dr. Marian Stoltz-Loike, Dean, Lander College for Women.

Sunday will also feature a new departure in Orthodox Union Conventions, the OU Listening Room, in which convention participants will be able to sit down with two rotating OU officers to speak their minds about the OU, its programs and policies. “We’ll listen, we won’t argue, we want to hear what convention participants have to tell us,” declared OU President Stephen J. Savitsky. “These comments will be forwarded on to the new leadership, which together with the resolutions passed Sunday morning, will guide them in their actions for the next two years.” For added convenience, you can even submit a suggestion or remark via email at {encode=”OUListens@ou.org” title=”OUListens@ou.org”}

The Convention will also bring to a close the six-year OU presidency of Stephen J. Savitsky, with the installation of his successor. An announcement will be made prior to the Convention of who will follow Mr. Savitsky as the chief lay leader of the OU. The entire slate of OU Officers and Board members will be elected at the Convention. It will also be the first Convention at which Rabbi Weil is Executive Vice President. Both he and Rabbi Weinreb, now Executive Vice President, Emeritus, will play leading roles in the programming and learning sessions.

The Convention will conclude with a gala dinner at which the OU’s new leadership will be installed.

For further information, including costs, and to register for the Convention, go to www.ou.org/convention or contact Frank Buchweitz at frank@ou.org, or 212-613-8188.

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