OU’s West Coast Torah Convention, Dec 21-25, Explores Tension in Jewish Life

12 Dec 2006


With the theme of The Tension in Jewish Life: Preserving the Past and Innovating for the Future, the West Coast Region of the Orthodox Union will present its 16th Annual West Coast Torah Convention, from Thursday, December 21 to Monday, December 25, at locations throughout the Los Angeles area.

The Convention, which is regularly attended by hundreds of men and women, many of whom come from locations beyond Los Angeles and California, features an imposing team of Scholars-in-Residence, who will fan out over Los Angeles and surrounding communities to lead Sabbath study sessions. With 16 synagogues participating, the amount of attendees reaches from five to ten thousand over the Sabbath. The Scholars-in-Residence include the rabbis of OU synagogues in the Los Angeles area, a delegation from the OU national headquarters in New York, and other scholars from outside of Los Angeles.

The Convention is regarded by those who attend it year after year as an extraordinary coming together of an entire community to engage in Torah learning and the discussion of Jewish issues in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

“We live in a world of conflict and unrest,” declared OU West Coast Chairman of the Board David Zeffren of Hancock Park. “The key to our survival as Jews is to foster and promote achdut, unity, amongt K’lal Yisrael through the guidance of Torah. What better process to work towards this goal than to spend time learning together and listening to rabbonim and scholars discuss these vital issues and present their ideas. While there may be differences of approach within the context of Torah-dedicated Jews, there must be unity of ultimate purpose. Once again, the West Coast Torah Convention is bringing together an array of speakers to accomplish just that. Come learn with us as the conference examines the issue of Preserving the Past and Innovating for the Future.”

Convention Chairman Howard Shapiro of Westside Los Angeles commented, “Tension is not just that headache you get at the end of long workday. For the spiritually healthy Orthodox Jew, tension is a way of life.”

“This year’s Torah convention theme: Preservation vs. Innovation: The Tension in Jewish Life honors that delicate balance,” Mr. Shapiro continued. What elements of the past must we cling to in order to preserve our identity? What innovations of the changing world in which we live must we adopt in order to maintain our vibrancy and integrity? How do we, as a nation, balance these two ideas in order to fulfill our communal spiritual role? These ideas, which cut to the core of Modern Orthodox Judaism, will be discussed and debated by some of the best minds that Judaism has to offer,” he said.

“It takes a full six months of intensive effort to put this Convention together,” said Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, Director of the West Coast Region. “The results are well worth it. I know of no other community in which high-powered learning is spread out as far and wide as it is in Los Angeles, as our Scholars-in-Residence travel to Orthodox neighborhoods to spend Shabbat there and to share their insights with the congregations of the local OU member shuls.”

The Orthodox Union Scholars-in-Residence include OU President Stephen J. Savitsky; OU Executive Vice President, Rabbi Dr. Tzvi H. Weinreb; Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin; Rosh Kollel of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Rabbi Hershel Schachter; Clinical Psychologist and , Author, Dr. Lisa Aiken; and, Professor of Law, Emory University, and rabbi, Young Israel of Toco Hills in Atlanta, Rabbi Michael Broyde.

“We have a diverse selection of educators and lecturers, cutting across political and philosophical lines, to create an outstanding convention. The topics are timely, relevant, and exhilarating, challenging the way we think about our religious lives,” said Mr. Shapiro.

The opening program, December 21, will include dinner with greetings by Mr. Savitsky and a presentation of Community Service Awards to the volunteers of Greater LA Hatzolah. “We will be honoring the volunteers of Hatzolah for their dedication and commitment to saving lives. They are truly a valuable and necessary resource in our community,” said Mr. Zeffren.

At the opening dinner, the OU West Coast Region will also install new officers. They are as follows,

•David Zeffren, President

•Alan Friedman, National Vice President, West Coast Region

•Eli Grenauer, National Vice President, Northwest Region

•Martin Nachimson, National Chairman, Board of Governors

A national board of governors and directors will also be installed.

Following the opening dinner at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, the Keynote Address will be delivered by Rabbi Riskin, who will address the Convention’s theme.

Saturday night, December 23, there will be a public screening of “Lonely Man of Faith: The Life and Legacy of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.” Following the screening there will be a panel discussion with Ethan Isenberg, Producer and Director of the film, Rabbi Riskin, Rabbi Schachter and Rabbi Elazar Muskin of Young Israel of Century City, Chairman.

The Convention closes with a day of sessions, Sunday, December 24 at the Crowne Plaza Beverly Hills, on a wide variety of topics, as well as a special panel discussion, Innovation vs. Preservation: The Future of American Jewry, with Dennis Prager, radio talk show host and author, and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Director of Project Next Step of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Contributing Editor to OU Jewish Action Magazine.
The Sunday sessions at the Crowne Plaza Beverly Hills will include:

•A View from Israel: Diaspora Jewry’s Influence on the State in the 21st Century, with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

•Halacha Shiur, with Rabbi Hershel Schacter

•Panel Discussion: From Velozhin to…? Is It Time to Change the Traditional Yeshiva Curriculum? with Dayan Yonatan Abraham, Dr. Lisa Aiken, and, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, Executive Editor, Intermountain Jewish News, Denver

•The ‘ Chosen’ People: Chosen From or For Whom? with Rabbi Chaim Eisen

•Why are so Many of our Youth Going off the Derech? with Rabbi Yitchok Lowenbraum

•The Jewish Woman’s Changing Role in the Synagogue, the Beit Midrash, the Home and the Workplace, with Rabbi Michael Azose

•”Chodosh Asur Min HaTorah”-Historical Precedents for Paradigm Shifts in Jewish Communal Life, with Rabbi Matt Tropp

•Bar or Mitzvah: Rethinking How the Jewish Community Makes Smachot, with Rabbi Shmuel Goldin

•How to Deal with Goyim Who Love Us, with Rabbi Michael Broyde

The Convention resumes Monday, December 25, with a legal conference to be held at OU West Coast Headquarters, 9831 West Pico Boulevard. Rabbi Broyde will present on, Alternative Dispute Resolutions: The What, How and When of the Bet Din Process. The conference will begin at 9:45 a.m.

Also on Monday, A Call to Kiruv–Outreach: Not Just for the Professionals, What You Can Do and How to Do It, outreach workshop will be held at Aish Ha Torah, 9106 West Pico Boulevard. The program is made possible in co-sponsorship with Aish Ha Torah-Los Angeles and major kiruv (outreach) organizations. It will begin at 7:45 a.m. with morning services followed by registration at 8: 45 a.m. The keynote speaker will be Rabbi Schachter.

For further information, contact Rabbi Alan Kalinsky at 310-229-9000, ext 200, or westcoast@ou.org.