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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Katz’

A Kaliver Example for the Torah World

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Most people who read this blog know that I am not a big fan of Chasidus as a Hashkafa. As a rationalist, I prefer the intellectual approach to Judaism over the emotional approach. Chasidus’s focus on Kabbalah and the spiritual world has little appeal to a rational mind like mine.

That said, I certainly do not have any issues with Chasidim who seem to gain a lot from their movement and their Rebbe. Although in some cases I have a problem with certain Chasidic movements and their Rebbes, it is for specific reasons based mostly on their overly negative attitude towards the outside world or for example in the case of Chabad with their Meshichism issues. But to be sure I do not have any personal animus with Chasidus as a whole.

Which brings up what to me is a significant event. One for which I applaud a Chasidic Rebbe. Specifically the Kaliver Rebbe. I know nothing about Kaliver Chasidus or its Rebbe. But when a Chasidic Rebbe goes to Yeshiva University and gives a Shiur there in the year 2012, that’s news. And as one can see by the picture above (reproduced from Hirshel Tzig’s blog) that is exactly what happened.

Of course this is not the first time that a great rabbinic figure from the world of Charedim has done this. Back in the pre Holocaust Bernard Revel era, many Gedolim from the Yeshiva world in Europe gave Shiurim there. Dr. Revel always invited them to do so when they visited these shores to raise funds for their Yeshivos. Rav Aharon Kotler who was the Rosh HaYeshiva at Kletzk being one of those.

In fact one such Gadol, R’ Shimon Shkop stayed on to become Rosh HaYeshiva at YU for about a year. I will never forget the picture Rabbi Nehemiah Katz had hanging on his office wall of his Chag Semicha from YU with Rav Shkop in the foreground. Rabbi Katz was R’ Moshe Feinstein’s brother in law (R’ Moshe’s wife was Rabbi Katz’s sister.) It was Rabbi Katz who was largely responsible for bringing R’Moshe to America.

The only European Gadol who refused to set foot into YU was Rav Elchonan Wasserman.

On the Chasidic side of the aisle, I don’t believe any Rebbe of stature ever gave a Shiur in YU. Certianly not the Satmar Rebbe, the Gerrer Rebbe, The Bobover Rebbe, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, or the Lubavitcher Rebbe (…to name a few of the more prominent ones).

I may be wrong but I don’t think any Charedi Gadol, Rosh HaYeshiva, or Chasidic Rebbe of any kind has set foot in YU since Dr. Revel’s time. That fact is – in my view – one of the more divisive ones in Klal Yisroel – at a time now when Achdus is needed more than ever.

Along comes the Kaliver Rebbe and gives a Shiur to YU students. That tells me that to the Kalvire Rebbe Achdus trumps ideology. Not that this Rebbe has given up on his ideology. I’m sure he hasn’t. He is probably just as opposed to college as he ever was – assuming that his views are the typical Chasidic ones that considers college Assur.

But even though he probably does, he did not let that get in the way of going into YU and giving a Shiur to the students. That my friends is Achdus. He is embracing his fellow Jews. He realizes that there are other Hashkafos – some of which he opposes. But he respects those who have these Hashkafos as B’nei Torah.

Unlike Rav Wasserman he isn’t worried about sending the wrong message – that by going to YU and giving a Shiur there he is somehow endorsing the Hashkafa of Torah U’Mada. All that matters to him is that there are B’nei Torah that want to hear his Divrei Torah.

My hat (Shtreimal?) is off to the Kaliver Rebbe for doing this.

Now if we can get one of the other Chasidic Rebbes to do this (for example – I hear the Satmar Rebbe – R’ Aharon Teitelbaum is a huge Talmud Chacham) we may actually accomplish something big.

But an even bigger accomplishment would be if one of the mainline Roshei Yeshiva would do that. I’m sure that Yeshiva University would be honored to host Rav Matisyahu Salomon, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, or Rav Dovid Feinstein for example. I know that they do not agree with the Torah U’Mada Hashkafa. But neither is Yeshiva University an adherent of their Torah Only Hashkafa.

Just One Life: Saving Worlds Every Day

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Deliberating over terminating a pregnancy is a struggle Rachel* never thought would face her. Life in Northern Israel with her husband and daughter was great until a business they invested in brought a huge financial loss and left them in debt. With her husband only earning a minimal income from a factory job, and much of that deducted to repay their loans, he and Rachel learned she was pregnant and considered terminating the pregnancy. A local social worker referred Rachel to Just One Life.

Just One Life was founded over 20 years ago, when a rabbi read a newspaper article that troubled him and decided to act. The rabbi was the late Rabbi Solomon Sharfman who had been the spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Flatbush. He read that annually, 20,000 women, mostly married, were terminating pregnancies in Israel. Rabbi Sharfman researched the situation personally, and found out that most of these women were choosing to end pregnancies due to socioeconomic stresses that they were facing. He decided that something must be done to save these lives that were being lost daily.

Madelaine Gitelman

In 1989, Rabbi Sharfman together with Jack Forgash founded the organization Just One Life, or in Israel, Nefesh Achat B’Yisrael. Some of Rabbi Sharfman’s former congregants, including Joel and Miriam Gold, were instrumental in its founding as well. Rabbi Macy Gordon was the director of the National Council of Young Israel and the first director of JOL, which was originally run under the auspices of NCYI. Madelaine Gitelman was hired as the executive vice president and head social worker and is today very much the heart and soul of the daily operations in Israel. Rav Avrohom Pam, zt”l, became the organization’s rabbinic adviser and spent “a lot of time ironing everything out,” according to Rabbi Martin Katz, director of JOL. About eight months after its founding, Rabbi Katz joined JOL to head up the operations in North America. “Just One Life has been my identity for the past 20 years,” says Rabbi Katz, his passion for the cause evident in his voice.

In JOL’s first year of operation, the organization successfully assisted seven families, according to Rabbi Etan Tokayer, spiritual leader of the Kingsway Jewish Center in Brooklyn who joined JOL as executive vice president in the Unites States in 2007. To date over 13,000 babies have been born with the help of JOL, including Rachel’s little girl born just a few weeks ago. Rabbi Tokayer explains that during Rachel and her husband’s initial conversation with Gitelman, it was clear to her that “both Rachel and her husband wanted this pregnancy to continue, but were very fearful about their immediate situation.”

Rabbi Etan Tokayer

“The offer of assistance and the ongoing relationship…enabled Rachel to become more positive about the birth,” he says. “During the pregnancy, she developed some health issues. Part of the monthly subsidy provided by JOL was used to purchase the special food that Rachel needed. The couple is thrilled with their new addition.”

The staff of JOL prides itself that 100 percent of its clients have kept their children, without any having been put up for adoption. The organization calls this “internal aliyah,” growing the Jewish population in Israel from within. Rabbi Katz notes that Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, zt”l, said that since 1948, almost as many babies in Israel were lost to termination as were killed in the Holocaust.

Both Rabbi Katz and Rabbi Tokayer are clear that their success does not lie solely in the area of financial support to these families. While JOL provides a small stipend, when needed, to alleviate some of the financial stress that may have caused these women to consider termination, Just One Life’s main goal is to empower each woman to be more independent and confident in the skills they need to be successful. Just One Life provides educational resources and classes to teach parents money management, family budgeting, and vocational skills that could help bring extra income to the home. “Just giving them money would be a band-aid,” says Rabbi Katz, explaining that the psychological and support services are what have made a lasting difference to these women, their husbands, and ultimately their children.

Yael, 34 and married with two sons, became despondent when she learned that she was pregnant. Her husband works for a building contractor, and she knew that because money was already too tight to cover their current expenses, that he would probably wish for her to terminate the pregnancy. Even though Yael’s employer would continue to pay her for three months after she delivered, the cost of a newborn seemed overwhelming.

Yael and her husband were referred to JOL. With the offer of financial assistance and some counseling, the husband was not only willing to support his wife’s decision to continue the pregnancy, but was also willing to be a more sharing partner in the household. In November they were glad to welcome their third son.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/just-one-life-saving-worlds-every-day/2012/01/25/

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