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December 11, 2016 / 11 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘OU’

Where to Find Leadership

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

In his Sept. 27 Jewish Press front-page essay, Dr. Marvin Schick (“Best of Times, Worst of Times”) decried an apparent lack of leadership in our community, in particular the ability of our community to advocate on matters related to gay marriage and tuition.

While it is true that today’s activists cannot match the talent and results of the late Rabbi Moshe Sherer and there is no living posek in America today who can match the near-universal respect commanded by Rav Moshe Feinstein, my generation should not be dismissed as a silent one fighting for lost causes.

When it comes to private school tuition, the constitution limits the government’s ability to assist our yeshivot; any attempt to expand funding beyond current proposals such as tax breaks and mandated services reimbursements would likely be defeated in court.

A more detailed list of proposals was outlined by New York State OU Political Affairs Director Jeff Leb in a March 22 Jewish Press op-ed titled “The Most Important Jewish-School Funding You’ve Never Heard Of.” Until these proposals are implemented, we should recognize that the solution for tuition affordability lies primarily within our community, not with the government.

On certain public policy issues, Orthodox opinion stands in sharp contrast to the views of most American Jews. If gains in same-sex marriage and transgender legislation cannot be reversed, how do we interact with a public whose views increasingly contradict ours? Is it still possible to work with public officials who are openly gay if we agree on other policy subjects?

Instead of attacking practitioners of other lifestyles, our time would be better spent defending our right to practice shechitah, brit milah and religious accommodation in the workplace.

Now let’s turn to the askanim who, in Dr. Schick’s words, “act as if candidates for major office are our best friends.” With the growth of the Orthodox community in New York, any candidate seeking to win citywide elected office has a frum staffer by his or her side.

Assuming your goal is to advocate for the community through the political process, there are two ways to do this as an individual. If you are independently wealthy, you open up your wallet and donate. If you’re an idealistic recent graduate with an interest in advocacy, how do you get a candidate’s ear? By putting in your time, at very little pay, setting up meetings for the candidate with rabbis and lay leaders, collecting signatures, and educating the candidate about topics that matter to the community.

At age 18, Manny Behar was a freshman at Yeshiva University with an eye toward politics. His first campaign was Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s failed 1972 presidential bid. Jackson symbolized the ideological center of his party, situated between racist southerner George Wallace and liberal George McGovern.

Although Rabbi Behar’s first race was a loss, he subsequently worked for City Comptroller Liz Holtzman, Queens Borough President Claire Schulman, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and State Assemblyman Rory Lancman. As executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council, Behar advocated fiercely for the community.

In partnership with elected officials, Behar tackled companies adhering to the Arab boycott of Israel, assisted shuls and yeshivas with zoning permits, provided job and housing assistance to Soviet Jewish immigrants and much more. He never rose to the national stature of an Abe Foxman or a Malcolm Hoenlein, but I would like to think he is making a difference on the local level. Having grown up in Queens and attended shul with him, I consider Manny Behar my political mentor.

Considering the preponderance of chassidic rebbes who, in Dr. Schick’s words, “scarcely have a following,” anyone can wear a bekishe and shtreimel, pronounce takanos nobody will observe and claim yichus. True chassidic leadership rests on having a real following, connecting with the larger Jewish world, and leaving an impact on the growing body of halachic and cultural thought.

To be a gadol one’s last name doesn’t have to be Feinstein, Kamenetsky, Kotler or Soloveitchik. The younger generations of rabbis in those illustrious families certainly qualify for gadlus because they were raised in households with a deep appreciation for Torah, but I would like to believe that, im yirtzeh Hashem, my children will have the same opportunities for religious leadership as members of these families.

Sergey Kadinsky

Wonder Bread Gets OU Kosher Approval

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Wonder Bread, fresh off its post-bankruptcy revival, will get kosher certification in the New York area from the Orthodox Union (OU), according to an OU bulletin.

The kosher Wonder Bread won’t be sold everywhere, but approved products will bear the OU’s symbol on their packaging. Previously, Wonder Bread was certified by the Triangle-K, which is not as widely accepted by kosher consumers as the OU, the New York Jewish Week reported.

Flower Foods, which acquired the Wonder Bread brand during the Hostess brand’s recent bankruptcy fire sale, is a “very old and important OU account,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the chief operating officer of the OU’s Kashruth Department.

JNS News Service

Jewish Institutions Awarded $9 million in Federal Security Grants

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Approximately 90 percent of the $10 million in funding for non-profit organizations announced by the Department of Homeland Security to help nonprofit organizations protect themselves from terrorism went to Jewish institutions this year.

The total amount of grants, announced Aug. 29, is slightly up from last year’s $9.7 million, while the total Preparedness Grant Program budget for this year amounts to $968 million.

“The Department of Homeland Security has demonstrated a great commitment to protecting at-risk communities,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America’s board of trustees.

The Jewish Federations of North America and the Orthodox Union were instrumental in making sure the Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant program was continued.

Since Congress established the program in 2005, a total of $138 million has been distributed across the country to help at-risk nonprofits acquire and install physical security enhancements and undertake preparedness training, the JFNA announced.

“Since September 11, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks,” said William C. Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of Jewish Federations.

JTA

Man-Made Meat? A fence for Wisdom is Silence

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

After years of research and development, a man-made hamburger was publicly tasted for the first time last week. The burger was not animal flesh, instead it was grown in a laboratory. However, it was grown in a way that mimics the way animals grow their own flesh. Thus, it was pretty close to dead animal meat in flavor and texture.

This incredible scientific breakthrough prompted a plethora of questions. For the religious community with rituals and laws attached to the eating of meat even more questions were asked.

It seemed that one could hardly browse the Internet for five seconds without seeing a juicy soundbite (sorry, couldn’t resist) about whether the meat was kosher or whether is was meat at all. Chabad’s website had one approach. OU had another approach. Reuters had a third opinion in their article. NBC added another view.

I must have been asked by a dozen people what to make of the man-made meat mystery.

This is what I think. No one has any idea what they are talking about. Non-scientists have no chance of understanding the precise manner in which this meat was manufactured. I have tried to understand how it all works and it is almost impossible to find the full technical explanation with all the requisite background information. A very smart scientists tried explaining it to me, but even after I got the gist of the process I had more questions about stem cells and other background than I had before he explained it to me. I am pretty confident that Chabad, OU, the Reuters people, and even NBC News reporters don’t have a clue how this meat is made.

Sure, they  say “don’t rely on this for halacha” or something to that effect, but that makes things even worse. Why offer a meaningless opinion that is based on ignorance? It seems to make a mockery of Jewish law. But Jewish law is very serious and serious people will offer serious opinions on this matter. The proper response for almost the entire population of planet Earth to these eternal questions about man-made meat is “I am not qualified to render an opinion on this matter.”

Without a thorough understanding of how the meat is made, any discussion of the halachic ramifications of the meat is not even conjecture. It is pure fantasy. Further, deciding the halachic status of this issue will require a breadth of Torah knowledge that is possessed by a mere handful of people on the planet. You can’t pasken this shyla with Yad Moshe, Google, or the Otzar. This is a brand new question of Jewish law and will need serious investigation into the science and the various tenuously analogous precedents in Jewish law. The Torah does not discuss synthetic meat. And even if it did, who says this meat would be the same as the synthetic meat found in Jewish law?

The only way this question can be seriously answered is with a conference of scientists and rabbis who fit the descriptions above. Scientists who can thoroughly explain how the meat is made and Torah scholars who know kol haTorah kula will need to decide this issue. Anyone else jumping into the discussion is wielding a knife in a nuclear war. It’s that useless.

If I can, I will try to attain a scientific understanding of how this meat is produced and then perhaps I will be qualified to even ask the question to my (qualified) posek. But until such time, I wouldn’t dare wade into this very, very deep pool. I think this is the proper policy under the circumstances. We sound more educated and cutting edge when we admit what we don’t know as opposed to when we pretend we know what we are discussing.

Visit Fink or Swim.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

Would You Eat a Kosher, Lab-Grown Cheeseburger?

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

When the world’s first lab-grown burger was introduced and taste-tested on Monday, the event seemed full of promise for environmentalists, animal lovers and vegetarians.

Others who had good reason to be excited are kosher consumers.

The burger was created by harvesting stem cells from a portion of cow shoulder muscle that were multiplied in petri dishes to form tiny strips of muscle fiber. About 20,000 of the strips were needed to create the five-ounce burger, which was financed partially by Google founder Sergey Brin and unveiled by Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) hailed the event as a “first step” toward humanely producing meat products. A University of Amsterdam study shows that lab-grown meat could significantly reduce the environmental impact of beef production.

For kosher-observant Jews, the “cultured” burgers could open the door to radical dietary changes — namely, the birth of the kosher cheeseburger. That’s because meat produced through this process could be considered parve – neither meat nor dairy — according to Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division.

Thus, under traditional Jewish law, the burger could be paired with dairy products, but several key conditions would have to be met to create kosher, parve cultured beef.

The tissue samples would have to come from an animal that had been slaughtered according to kosher rules, not from a biopsy from a live animal, Genack said. The principle underlying this theory is much like the status of gelatin in Jewish law: Though it is derived from an animal, it is not meat (the OU certifies some bovine-derived gelatin as parve). Genack noted another source for viewing cultured meat as parve: a 19th century Vilna-born scholar known as the Heshek Shlomo wrote that the meat of an animal conjured up in a magical incantation could be considered parve.

It may not be too much of a stretch, then, to apply the same logic to modern genetic wizardry. But kosher chefs aren’t heating up the parve griddles just yet.

The lab-born burger, which cost $325,000 and took two years to make, is still a long way from market viability, kosher or otherwise. If mass produced, it could still cost $30 per pound, researchers said.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Jeff Nathan, the executive chef at Abigael’s on Broadway, a kosher restaurant in Manhattan. “Until it’s in my hands and I can touch it, smell it and taste it, I don’t believe it.”

Even if cultured beef became commonplace, consumers still might not be interested, said Elie Rosenfeld, a spokesman for Empire Kosher, the nation’s largest kosher poultry producer. “Parve burgers made of tofu and vegetables have been on the market for years,” Rosenfeld said. “But customers are still looking for the real deal, a product that’s wholesome and genuine.” Nevertheless, Nathan sounded an enthusiastic note about the potential for parve meat.

“I’m all for experimentation and science,” he said. “Let’s see what it tastes like.”

JTA

Israel Hotels Attracting Tourists with OU Kosher Certification

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Israeli restaurants and hotels are more interested n seeking kosher certification from the American-based Orthodox Union (OU) in order to attract foreign tourists, according to the Kosher Today newsletter.

It said that many American Jewish tourists generally are more familiar with the OU than Israeli rabbinic certifications.

The OU operates in Israel in an office near downtown Jerusalem and has several kosher supervisors.

Not all restaurants are willing to accept OU supervision. Kosher Today noted that the La Cuisine restaurant decided to forfeit its OU certification for Passover rather than agree to its requirements for proper cleaning of the facility before the holiday.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Next Year In… Milwaukee?

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

I finally went to the Orthodox Union’s annual Jewish Communities Fair. As a long-time pro-Aliyah activist, I had been curious about this event, and so while on tour in America, I joined the hungry Modern-Orthodox masses at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Pavilion as they searched for new communities and a new life in far flung locales like Jacksonville, Florida, Louisville, Kentucky, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin – but not Israel.

I expected to see a moderately attended event. But to my surprise, the venue was packed with over 1,300 people, exploring the forty-one different communities represented. There was so much noise, I had to stand close in order to hear community leaders make their pitches.

OU Flyer

You may wonder, as I did, why would Modern-Orthodox Jews want to leave the kosher conveniences of the NY area and move to remote places like Southfield, Michigan. It turns out, that first and foremost, the answer is affordability: cheaper housing, cheaper education, and getting more for your money. A high quality of life at an affordable price. And incentives. Some communities promise incentives like a $20,000 gift for a down-payment on your home, and free tuition from kindergarten through grade 12.

Josh Elbert, who flew in to represent Southfield, shared with me how he had come to this fair a few years ago and was skeptical when the Michigan people approached him. They said to him, “Don’t judge until you see it,” and indeed, when he saw it, he was smitten. “I am a success story of this event. Because of the connections we made here, we were able to provide a terrific opportunity for our family,” he told me. Because of the drop in real estate, he mentioned, one can buy a very large home for $115,000 in Southfield. Someone who makes forty-five thousand dollars a year can live next to a millionaire.

But there are other reasons to move to the American periphery – such as the opportunity to join a tight-knit community and make an impact on a growing shul, or aging congregation seeking new blood.

OU Community Fair Chesterfield & Crowd

I spoke with Rabbi Aaron Winter who came to Chesterfield, Missouri twenty two years ago to serve as their rabbi. He explained to me that Chesterfield is part of greater St. Louis, that they have a congregation of 80 Orthodox families, and their own mikvah and Chafetz Chaim Mesivta. He told me that his shul had succeeded in bringing many non-affiliated Jews closer to Torah. As he put it, “we are on the front lines of Orthodox Jewry in St. Louis.” Now, Chesterfield is looking to grow and they are offering up to five families a grant of twenty thousand dollars each towards the purchase of a home. “When you are an out-of-town community, even one family is gold. People appreciate you being here,” Rabbi Winter told me.

So cheaper housing, affordable education, a sense of community, and the promise of a better quality of life, are luring Jews to middle-America.

Understandable, reasonable, and respectable!

But what about the Israel option? Were any of the Modern Orthodox attendees at the OU’s Community Fair considering moving east of New York, to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv? There was no way to really know because there were no tables representing emerging communities in the emerging Jewish state. Had there been a table for, let’s say, Efrat, Modiin, or Maale Adumim, then one could gauge how much action that table saw as compared with Portland. But alas, that option did not exist. The message of the fair was clear enough: If the Orthodox Union is going to help you find a new future – it is going to be in America.

That should come as no surprise. If you go to the OU’s website, you will see lots of pro-Israel links. But if you hover your mouse over the flag of Israel at the top of the site, a text pops up which reads: “Our ‘home away from home’ in Jerusalem, the OU Israel Center, annually welcomes over 100,000 visitors and residents.” The obvious implication is that Israel is a home away from home, but home is America. Another proof of this thinking was laid bare in the ‘Communities Guide’ which was given out at the fair. In it were page after page of US destinations for “Home & Job Relocation” with pictures, contact numbers, and websites. Yet on the back cover the full page glossy called on all to: “Join Us in Celebrating Israel’s 65th Birthday – March with the OU at the Celebrate Israel Parade.” Again, the message is clear: you can celebrate Israel and love Israel with the OU, but if you’re looking to move, consider Cleveland.

Yishai Fleisher

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/eye-on-zion/next-year-in-milwaukee/2013/05/03/

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