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August 24, 2016 / 20 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘NCSY’

Leaning To Eliyahu: The Lubavitcher Rebbe, NCSY, And The Way Forward In Judaism

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

As I wrote last week in my Jewish Press front-page essay “The Argument Against Zealotry,” we live in a world of kana’ut – zealotry and extremism.

Kana’im fail to understand how demeaning their perspective and behavior is to their fellow Jews. Has their kana’ut enriched our community or our people? Has it added to our understanding of the world God created or the blessings bestowed upon us?

Rather than a zealotry defined by Pinchas, how much wiser to consider a religious fervor more like Eliyahu’s.

We commemorated the twentieth yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the 3rd of Tammuz and it befits us to consider the Rebbe’s example and how we can be uplifted and united by love of God rather than divided by it.

While Eliyahu is just as zealous as Pinchas, his way is neither loud nor insistent. It is gentle and caring, calming the pained baby at a bris, uplifting every family at the Pesach Seder, cheerfully bidding Shabbos farewell and wishing good cheer and fortune for the coming week.

The Rebbe inspired his followers to be like Eliyahu, to go everywhere in the world carrying the message of deracheha darchei noam – of a pleasant, loving, embracing Judaism – to each and every Jew.

So completely did the Rebbe personalize this accepting and loving zealotry that his thousands of shluchim go out into the world with the absolute belief that they have a relationship with him, not just his teachings. Such absolute devotion is astonishing.

Many years ago I worked as hard as I’d ever worked trying to recruit ten scholars to come to Pittsburgh to create a kollel. More often than not, I would be asked, “Pittsburgh? Where is that? What is there to do there?”

How I struggled to get scholars to come. And yet the Rebbe, gone for twenty years, continues to inspire young couples to travel to the farthest ends of the earth, to places where they have no friends, no network, no minyan, no kosher provisions, in order to establish a Chabad House.

There is no word to describe what they do, for their behavior is beyond sacrifice, beyond dedication, beyond commitment. Why do they do it? To fulfill the Rebbe’s desire that they reach out and touch everyJewish soul they can reach.

The Rebbe’s deepest message is clear: Embrace and accept. It is awe-inspiring to sit in a Chabad shul and see how many of those who enter are greeted with hugs and kisses rather than apathetic silence and neglect. To be sure, not every Chabad shita or hashkafa is embraced by other Orthodox Jews. That said, as a non-Chabad Orthodox Jew I cannot help but think there is much of Chabad’s approach we would do well to imitate.

How could it be otherwise? Is there any person who, given the choice, prefers being berated to being embraced? Is there anyone who would prefer to be pushed away and belittled rather than brought in and respected?

From the moment he arrived in America, the Rebbe saw that the way forward could only be the way of Eliyahu: teach, inspire, uplift, and encourage – and always with kindness and love.

Similar to the Rebbe’s approach, the Orthodox Union’s NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth) engages and embraces. Celebrating its 60th birthday, NCSY was born at a time when many predicted Orthodoxy was on its deathbed. But people like Rabbi Pinchas Stolper and a cadre of visionary lay leaders recognized the Jewish future rested with our youth. They created exciting, motivational, inspiring, loving and embracing Shabbatonim in Orthodox synagogues throughout the country.

NCSY was successful in attracting Jewish kids to come to these non-threatening, joyous Shabbatonim. And now, some sixty years and tens of thousands of NCSY graduates later, we can see that the Eliyahu approach can and will continueto turn the tide of Jewish assimilation and ignorance in this country.

Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

NY NCSY, Partners, Launch ‘Virtual Vigil’ of Torah Study, Prayer for Kidnapped Teens

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Jews across Israel and the world are consumed with worry and fear for the lives of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Frenkel, the three boys kidnapped by terrorists in Gush Etzion last week. Since then, the Israel Defense Forces and intelligence establishment has left no stone unturned in their efforts to locate the teens and, with God’s help, return them to their parents unharmed.

But the staff and teens of New York NCSY, based in the Five Towns, felt they needed to do more.

They understood that since its inception, the Jewish nation, when faced with crisis, has grabbed hold of “the tools of their ancestors,” and appealed to God through Torah, tefillah (prayer), and ma’asim tovim (good deeds).

To that end, New York NCSY spearheaded an effort to bring together NCSY regions throughout the country, the Orthodox Union’s Department of Community Engagement and Synagogue Services, and in partnership with Bnei Akiva and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), to launch a “Virtual Vigil” – an around-the-clock schedule of learning, prayer, and mitzvot, performed by teens and adults from around the world.

Within 24 hours of launching, over 650 people from around the world had signed up to give their time in creating this Virtual Vigil of Kedusha on behalf of these precious teens.

It is the hope of all involved that through these earnest efforts in the merit of Gilad Michoel ben Bat Galim, Ya’akov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah and Eyal ben Iris Teshura, Hashem will see fit to bring them home safely and quickly.

Individuals interested in participating can go to http://ncsy.org/bring-back-boys/ and fill out a simple form to select a day and a 30-minute slot, and identify which activity they are committing to for that time. You can also view a calendar of taken and available times at http://ncsy.org/bring-back-boys/calendar-times/.

While it is our deepest desire that this campaign will become unnecessary even as it is launched, it is also our intent to continue this project non-stop until our boys are brought home.

Jewish Press News Briefs

NCSY Student Leader and Her Mother Struck by Car Erev Yom Kippur, Mother Killed

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

On Friday evening, September 13, Orly Ohayon and her mother, Esther, were struck by a car as they were walking to Etz Chaim Synagogue  for erev Yom Kippur services in Mandarin, Florida.

Tragically, Orly’s 57 year old mother died on the scene from her injuries.  Orly was taken by ambulance in critical condition to University of Florida Health Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.  Orly underwent surgery Saturday evening and has begun her physical recovery.

Orly, 16, is a regional board member of the Orthodox Union’s youth organization, the National Council of Synagogue Youth, and she attended a NCSY program this summer.

Orly, born in Ashkelon, Israel, lived alone with her mother in a small town outside of Jacksonville. Esther’s body will be transported.  She will be transported to Israel, where she will be buried next to her husband, Yuda Ohayon, who predeceased her.

There is currently a fundraising site established by Orly’s cousin, as money will be needed to cover the cost of transport and burial for Orly’s mother, and for Orly’s needs when she is released from the hospital.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

NCSY Philanthropy

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Over the past three months seven groups of NCSY teen leaders researched non-profit organizations, meeting with and learning from these organizations’ representatives about the Jewish perspective regarding philanthropy.

On February 29, at Young Israel of Century City, NCSY held its first Decision Day. Judges heard presentations from the students, and granted the following groups $5,000 – to be split among them. The winners were Camp Chesed, Shoes that Fit, G’mach of San Diego, and The Hero Project Holocaust Education Reach-Out.

(L-R) NCSY Regional Director Solly Hess; David Malka; Menachem Kashanian; Daniel Sacks; and NCSY West Coast Executive Director Rabbi Effie Goldberg.

 

(L-R) NCSY Regional Director Solly Hess; Brandon Lurie; Sam Rhodes; and NCSY West Coast Executive Director Rabbi Effie Goldberg.

 

(L-R) Jaques Hay; Yosef Peretz; NCSY Regional Director Solly Hess; Sarrica Fink; Danielle Vildodrf; Eliana Jalali; and NCSY West Coast Executive Director Rabbi Effie Goldberg.

 

Jeanne Litvin

What Satmar Chassidim Can Teach The Author Who Trashed Them

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Dear Deborah,

Your book, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots, has touched a lot of nerves and unsettled a lot of hearts in the Orthodox Jewish community. It is not every day that a Satmar woman divorces her husband, moves to Manhattan and writes a tell-all book about the experience. It is not every day that a Satmar woman writes about her chassidic experience with derision and her intimate relations without inhibition.

My wife’s family is from Satmar, too. Her great-great grandfather was the shochet and chazzan in Satmar, Hungary, serving Grand Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum before World War II. Her great-grandfather left Satmar in the 1930s and moved to Portsmouth, England, where he served as the Orthodox pulpit rabbi of a less than observant congregation. His wife wanted to raise their children in a more modern environment and he went along with that decision. He never trimmed his beard or payos in Satmar but did so in Portsmouth. His wife shaved her hair in Satmar but didn’t do so in Portsmouth.

They didn’t write a book about the ordeal as you did. They respected their parents’ insular ways even if they couldn’t follow the path themselves. They wouldn’t – out of self-respect and human dignity – deride those who gave them life, God, and an eternal connection to Jewish destiny.

Deborah, our families share much in common. Chassidic life is not for us. In our view we should not be insular; we should make it our mission to inspire the world. But we part ways, fellow Satmarite, when you approach every Jewish law with cynicism and see sexual subjugation in every chassidic custom. I think you are writing yourself into the text.

I have no doubt you believed all you wrote to be true (including your allegation of castration and murder in Kiryas Joel which has been proven to be false). I wonder, however, if you are open enough to consider that your processing might be uniquely personal – defined through an emotionally scarred and spiritually detached lens that has affected the way you see the Jewish laws and customs that have inspired and unified your people for the past 2,000 years.

Your book became an immediate sensation. What is it that made it so popular? Is it an intellectual treatise, a work of authority? It is not. You write passionately but anecdotally, poignantly but subjectively.

You left your husband and heritage, choosing instead secular values. I have read books much more profound than yours by women who rejected secular culture, seeing its lifestyle as hedonistic, Godless, and disrespectful of their feminine dignity. They saw in secular culture a society that defines the perfect body as the perfect virtue, the undress of female as art, the augmented female figure as the appropriate trophy on the arm of the rich and famous. They chose chassidic Judaism instead.

But their books weren’t featured on “The View.” Their stories weren’t highlighted in newspapers across the globe. They didn’t receive a call back from Simon and Schuster. Why do you think that might be?

It is the alleged window into the chassidic bedroom that made your book sensational. And that is because there is so little about sex in the secular world that is private, dignified and feminine anymore. It is all so public, aggressive and masculine. When a woman is provocative she is not feminine but masculine, having traded relationship for sex. Perhaps the last frontier of feminine dignity is in the religious bedroom. And you besmirched the most wonderful, intimate experiences of a community by presenting your sad personal experience as the norm.

The women of “The View” ate it up. Deborah, it is not you they like. It is your validation they seek.

Leaving Satmar may be your defining moment. But it is a door, not a destination. What is your ideology? How do you define God? How do you make perfect the relationship between created and Creator, man and woman, man and self? How do you understand human challenge, temptation, frailty, and the longing to connect to an Eternal force?

You haven’t addressed the larger issues that any ideology must. Those who cheer you on celebrate what you do not believe, what you do not do. It would be more interesting and inspiring to know what you do believe, what you do in fact do.

Deborah, you are a woman who has crossed a river. You are free, entirely able to live your dreams. What are your dreams? In which moral community will you find a home?

Will it be a community in which people care for each other?  Will it be a community in which people make sure no one falls through the cracks? Will it be a community in which even the weakest are provided for? Will it be a community infused by a desire for closeness to God? Will it be a community in which gala weddings are made for the needy, even those who can’t pay for them themselves?

Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt

NCSY Honors Rabbi Shraga Gross

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

NCSY, the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union, recently honored Miami Beach native Rabbi Shraga Gross as an inductee into the Ben Zakkai Honor Society (BZHS) at its annual scholarship reception.

New members of BZHS are nominated by, and voted on, by current members based on the nominees’ service to NCSY and the Jewish community. The society’s main function is to raise funds for scholarships for high school NCSYers for summer programs in North America and Israel and for teens to continue their Jewish education after high school. The society has helped pay tribute for more than forty years to esteemed NCSY alumni and community leaders who have demonstrated their dedication to Torah and their service to the Jewish people.

Shraga Gross, principal of Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva (RPRY) in Edison, New Jersey, since 1993, finds interacting with his students the most “exciting and enjoyable part” of his job.

Dr. Simcha Katz, Rabbi Steven Burg, Rabbi Steven Weil, Rabbi Shraga Gross, Paul Glasser, Dr. David Luchins

Rabbi Gross credits his dedication to avodat hakodesh to his parents’ total commitment to Torah education. His father, Rabbi Alexander S. Gross zt”l, was charged with the mission of building Torah and providing a Jewish education for every Jewish child by his rebbe, Reb Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz, zt”l. Together with his mother, Rebbetzin Shirley Pelcovitz, he succeeded and The Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy in Miami Beach attests to that legacy.

Rabbi Shraga Gross found that inspiration as the impetus for involvement with NCSY, his first love. He served as president of his local chapter, Har Hanegev, in his native Miami Beach, when the chapter was awarded Chapter of the Year and Rabbi Gross was named NCSYer of the Year at the 1971 National Convention.

Shelley Benveniste

Men And Temptation: Beyond The Bus

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

There is a culture war raging in Israel. The extremists are pushing for an ever-expanding division of the sexes – including separate seating on public buses – and the moderates are refusing to go along for the ride. The struggle has filled newspapers and blogs the world over.

And it raises a larger question.

How should the Orthodox Jewish community deal with human temptation? Does removing challenges make the male spiritual immune system stronger? Does it make our masculinity more dignified?

Most people will agree that men and women are essentially different and face different challenges. Most men will agree that the basic male nature – without God or spiritual influence – is to pursue power and promiscuity.

From the day he is born man wants to be mighty, to make an imprint on the world. Jewish tradition teaches that this desire comes from a good place. Our soul is endowed with the knowledge that the purpose of life is to improve self and inspire others, to affect the world we inhabit in a positive way.

The male’s challenge is his ego, the drive that leads him, as a cow is led to pasture, to chase the fool’s gold of fame, fortune and physical pleasure.

Judaism teaches that we should have an ego. It says, in fact, that we should have an “eighth of an eighth” of haughtiness (Sotah 5a).

It doesn’t ask us to overcome our pride entirely. Why? Because spending our lives on a “seek and destroy” mission against our ego will send us down a troubled path. We may destroy our self-confidence in the process. And we may spend so much time overcoming the ego that the lack of haughtiness becomes our identity – our pride. Circuitously, we may reinforce the trait we sought to weaken.

The male ego can never be entirely removed. It is like removing fat from a well-marbled piece of meat; the more you uncover, the more you will find.

So what was God’s plan? How is man to overcome his nature? By taking responsibility. Marrying, working, caring for a wife, tending growing children with increasing and changing needs, joining a synagogue and committing to community are the things that keep man rooted, humble, and down to earth.

The same is true with man’s second primal desire. The male attraction to the female was created by God. The more one tries to remove temptation, the more things will become tempting. Asking women to sit in the back half of the bus, or to walk on another side of the street, will result in their very presence being a distraction. The more you cover, the more things you will observe.

The solution was written in the Torah. It was defined as the reality of the world after Adam left the Garden of Eden. Man should be busy. Man should work hard. Man should do the things men do best: protect and provide for the wife and children they love.

When I was a bachur in yeshiva, we sought deeper meanings in the words of Chazal; the derash fascinated us more than the pshat. As I grow older, the words of Chazal ring clearer and deeper in their most basic meanings. And these are words I love: Rabban Gamliel says (Avos 2:2), “How wonderful is the study of Torah with work, as involvement with both makes one forget sin.”

May it be God’s will.

Yaakov Rosenblatt, the author of two books, “tends the flock,” literally and figuratively, as CEO of A.D. Rosenblatt Kosher Meats, LLC and a rabbi with NCSY in Dallas.

Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/men-and-temptation-beyond-the-bus/2012/01/25/

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