Students on Organizational Track at RIETS, the YU Rabbinical Seminary, Visit the OU

11 Sep 2007


A dozen second and third year students at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University enjoyed a “phenomenal” visit to Orthodox Union headquarters in New York last week to gain insight into career possibilities working for a Jewish organization after receiving semicha – rabbinical ordination.

The students are part of an “organizational track,” which is one of several new tracks added to the pulpit and chinuch (education) tracks that RIETS uses to train its students. According to Rabbi Gideon Shloush, Coordinator of Professional Rabbinic Education, Placement and Advisement at RIETS, who designed and created the traveling course, the purpose of the visit — the first of several group tours they will take — was for the future rabbis to experience firsthand what the OU does and to hear from its top professionals. It is not surprising that the OU was the first stop, Rabbi Shloush said, given that Yeshiva University and the Orthodox Union have close ties and that many rabbis of OU synagogues across North America received semicha at RIETS.

On the OU end, the visit was coordinated by Rabbi Bini Maryles, himself a RIETS graduate, and who is Director of the OU’s Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services. It featured presentations by OU senior staff; a tour of the offices with an opportunity to meet additional OU personnel; a kashrut demonstration by OU Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi Leonard Steinberg on how to search for insects in lettuce; and an overview from OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb.

“What you’re seeing is a sample of what the OU is all about. The OU is much more than you thought,” Rabbi Weinreb declared. He described the OU mission: “We are an organization that wants to bring Jews – all Jews — closer to Torah and mitzvot. When we see a problem in the Jewish community, we try to address it as forthrightly as we can, even if there is criticism from other quarters.”

Rabbi Maryles, the RIETS alumnus who heads the OU Synagogue Services Department, agrees that it was very useful for the rabbis in training to learn more about the OU. “Knowing in full what the purview of the OU is would have affected me as a student and ultimately has influenced my view of the organization,” he said. “Most people do not realize the scope of the OU’s reach. It is comforting — besides impressive — to know that there is an organization tasked with caring for all of the Jewish people.”

“With regard to career choice,” Rabbi Maryles continued, “if the student can see that avodat hakodesh (holy work) can be accomplished outside of the classroom or the pulpit, then we can hope to have more talented, hard-working and well-intentioned people join us in the not-for-profit world of Jewish organizational work.”

“I congratulate Rabbi Maryles and his staff on the phenomenal program they put together,” RIETS’s Rabbi Shloush said. It was an outstanding opportunity for our students to hear from leading OU professionals about Jewish organizational life. The visit was really, really good.”