The Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim discussed timely and timeless issues at its Rosh Chodesh Kislev Conference on November 23, 2022, at Khilah Marine Park, where the illustrious Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson serves as rabbi. The theme of the Rosh Chodesh conference was how to increase adult Talmud Torah, an area where the community enjoys success but always looks for ways to improve. Additionally, the convened group discussed pressing matters, including support of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, safety of New York City’s Jewish community, and terror attacks in Israel.
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Igud HaRabbonim, recognized the presence of the venerable Mr. Pesach Osina, who serves as the Jewish communal liaison to New York Council Speaker Adriana Adams. “Pesach’s commitment to the Klal is legendary. My parents reside in the Bayswater section of Far Rockaway and were direct recipients of Pesach’s kindness. I vividly recall how in the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Pesach was out and about making certain that all people — especially seniors and families with children — had generators, food and all necessary essentials. Pesach’s commitment to the public spans over a decade of community service, assisting all people in need. He is a walking Kiddush Hashem who has one agenda — how he can help anyone in need. Pesach is the pride and joy of the community and we are fortunate to have him working with Speaker Adams. He is a strong advocate for the citywide Jewish community and we wish him much Hatzlacha as he fights for us on a daily basis.”
In keeping with the evening’s theme of exploring ways to increase adult Talmud Torah, the conference featured two presenters who shared their experiences and best practices. The first speaker was Rabbi Moshe Brandsdorfer, executive director of Torah Initiatives at the Orthodox Union. The second was Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson, who in addition to serving as rav of Khilah Marine Park, is also a Rosh Mesivta at the Yeshiva University High School for Boys, MTA. The Rosh Chodesh Kislev Conference was sponsored by the esteemed and acclaimed scholar Rabbi Gil Student, director, Halacha Commission, Igud HaRabbonim, who served as the moderator of the important dialogue on increasing adult Talmud Torah.
In introducing Rabbi Brandsdorfer, Mirocznik stated, “I am familiar with Rabbi Brandsdorfer as Pesach Osina’s partner in chesed and mitzvos at his former role at the Jewish Community Council of Rockaway Peninsula. But now I am pleased to see that Rabbi Brandsdorfer has taken on the additional role as a marbitz Torah, someone who spreads Torah, serving Klal Yisrael as the executive director of Torah Initiatives at the Orthodox Union. I dare say, I cannot think of any person more fitting than Rabbi Brandsdorfer, a true man of chesed, for such an important task. We at the Rabbinical Alliance of America wish him well in that capacity. We know that when history looks back at Rabbi Brandsdorfer, it will testify to great Torah accomplishments that we know he will achieve at this important post.”
Rabbi Brandsdorfer described in fascinating detail how, in his new position at the Orthodox Union, he is responsible for a number of popular initiatives that bring Torah learning to the community, including the OU’s Torah website and mobile apps, Semichas Chaver program, and other learning programs that have been transformed the community. Rabbi Brandsdorfer began to explain in detail how the internet, web platforms and familiar Torah apps of the Orthodox Union such as AllDaf, AllMishnah, and AllParsha have made such an important and revolutionary impact on Torah learning globally. “We at the Orthodox Union embrace technology as a medium in spreading Torah, learning and observance. I feel it is an honor and privilege to help the proliferation of Torah learning and to contribute to the ongoing effort of making Torah available to every Jewish person’s individual learning desire and needs. To that end, the Orthodox Union to date has over 103,000 recorded classes which comprise over one million hours of Torah lectures. I am proud to be part of this revolutionary technology that makes Torah accessible and I look forward to helping to grow this endeavor even further.”
Rabbi Mendelson remarked, “the role of the rabbi is to get his balebatim, congregants, motivated and to cultivate their desire to learn, think and live Torah. The Rambam teaches that a person must always increase his Torah learning. To that learning objective we must turn to the sagely advice of Rav Yisroel Salanter who stressed that Torah learning is not relegated only to the realm of rabbonim. Rather it is a way of life for every Jewish person. It is through the process of learning that a person connects better with Torah and mitzvos. Of course, a person must focus on having general broad Torah knowledge, but a Jew also must spend time on Iyun/in-depth Torah learning, study and analysis. It is our responsibility as rabbis to inculcate in our congregants the love, passion and zeal to study Torah in-depth. It is this thinking in learning which is essential to a life valuing Torah. Through proper engagement of iyun, a person grows in Torah observance and fear of Heaven. Of course, we celebrate a siyum when an individual completes a masechta/tractate of Talmud. The goal of the celebration is not a party that merely glorifies the honor of completing a masechta. Rather, the objective of the celebration is to encourage us to delve even deeper into the wells of Torah learning and dive into the amkus, the deep reservoir of Torah thought.”
Rabbi Mendelson explained that the best times for our congregants to explore deep paths of Torah thought is on Shabbos and Yom Tov. He offered his own strategies to spark thought and analysis by asking provocative questions, finding multiple opportunities for short but in-depth study and offering iyun shiurim similar to those his congregants enjoyed in yeshiva. He also taps his congregants to spread Torah, teach classes and discuss complex questions with fellow congregants. As he said, “the goal is getting people to think Torah and by doing so they live and practice Torah on a higher level.”
In addition to discussing how to increase adult Talmud Torah, the Rabbinical Alliance of America reaffirmed its support of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate as the national Halachic authority in Israel especially in issues of marriage, divorce, personal status and kashrus. The Igud HaRabbonim stressed its full support for Chief Rabbi David Lau’s call to amend the Law of Return that grants the automatic status of Jewish to grandchildren of Jewish grandparents. Sadly, due to the tragically high levels of intermarriage in worldwide Jewry, many grandchildren of Jewish grandparents are not halachically Jewish. In a move to unify the Jewish people around a single definition of who is a Jew, it is incumbent on the State of Israel to change the Law of Return not to extend to grandchildren who are not halachically Jewish. The Rabbinical Alliance of America backs this proposal by Chief Rabbi Lau to remove confusion and impediments in the personal status of Jews. This move will help foster the ability of Israeli Jews of all backgrounds to marry without worry about religious impediments due to halachic considerations in who is Jewish. The RAA resolution passed unanimously.
Inspector Richard Taylor, commanding officer, NYPD Community Affairs/Community Outreach Bureau, gave a security briefing regarding the apprehension and arrest of two potential terrorists who were targeting synagogues. Inspector Taylor described how MTA Officers Connor Colasurdo and Ryan Fackner found deadly weapons in their possession. The NYPD and our partners in law enforcement prevented what could have been a catastrophe. Inspector Taylor made it clear that, “the NYPD is doing all it can and is expanding all its resources to protect the Jewish community.” He further stressed that if we see or hear something strange, we should not hesitate to call 888-TIPS. “You never know how important that call and information is. You may prevent an attack or help the police apprehend, arrest and thwart a crime. Please be diligent and call. Your call can save a life.” Inspector Taylor was particularly proud of how he worked together on Shabbos with Steve Weil from Shomrim and David Shipper from Hatzolah to devise an emergency plan to mobilize these vital community organizations to save lives.
Rabbi Mirocznik thanked Inspector Taylor for his security briefing and went on to relate how on November 21, he joined Mayor Eric Adams and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell for a press conference at City Hall. “I cannot thank enough Mayor Adams and Police Commissioner Sewell for their care and concern for the safety of the Jewish community. The mayor and the police commissioner made it abundantly clear that they will not tolerate any individual or group that seeks to harm the Jewish community of New York. Mayor Adams made it clear that he will use every resource available to protect the Jewish community from harm and that he will hold accountable all those attempting to harm the Jewish community. On behalf of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, we thank the mayor for his care and concern and we appreciate his proactive approach in protecting the Jewish community.”
The Rabbinical Alliance of America took note of the two explosions that shook Jerusalem on November 23, killing a teenager and injuring 18 others in a combined terror attack. The first explosion occurred at a bus station near the entrance to Jerusalem at 7:06 a.m., injuring 12 people, including the teen who later died. Three of the wounded were in serious condition. A second explosion was reported almost half an hour later at the city’s Ramot junction, at 7:30 a.m. Three people were evacuated with minor injuries, while four were treated for stress symptoms.
Rabbi Mirocznik commented, “while we do not know for what exact reason these attacks occurred we can nevertheless say one thing. This is a wake-up call for Jews worldwide to become better people, to engage in more Torah learning, mitzvos and acts of chesed. Our job is to be better people and dedicate Torah study, good deeds and charity in the memory of the victims of this senseless terrorist attacks. How fitting that the central theme of the Rosh Chodesh Kislev Conference was dedicated to increasing adult Talmud Torah. We further call on the Israeli government to apprehend all those involved in this terrorist attack and to hold them accountable for their murderous actions. We also call upon all decent peace-loving people, whether Jewish or not, to condemn this terrorist act and to commit to eradicating terror globally.”
PICTURES BELOW AUDIO RECORDINGS
Greetings and Tehillim
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik
Rabbi Moshe Brandsdorfer
Inspector Richard Taylor
Rabbi Gil Student
Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson
Rabbi Yehuda Blank
Rabbi Yaakov Klass
Names in Pictures
Picture (1) Left to Right, Rabbi Hanania Elbaz, presidium member, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Moish Schmerler, executive director, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson; Khilah Marine Park; Inspector Richard Taylor, commanding officer, Community Affairs/Community Outreach Bureau; Rabbi Yaakov Klass, presidium member, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Yehuda Blank, vice president, Professional Development and External Affairs, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Zvi Berkowitz; Rabbi Gil Student, director, Halacha Commission, Rabbinical Alliance of America; and Mr. Pesach Osina, Jewish Communal Liaison, NYC Council Speaker Adriana Adams
Picture (2) Rabbi Shlomo Segal; Mr. Pesach Osina, Jewish Communal Liaison, NYC Council Speaker Adriana Adams; Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Rabbinical Alliance of America; and Rabbi Moshe Brandsdorfer, executive director, Torah Initiatives, Orthodox Union
Picture (3) Left to Right, Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Rabbinical Alliance of America; Rabbi Gil Student, director, Halacha Commission, Rabbinical Alliance of America; and Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson; Khilah Marine Park
Picture (4) Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Rabbinical Alliance of America; welcoming Inspector Richard Taylor, commanding officer, Community Affairs/Community Outreach Bureau; to the RAA Rosh Chodesh Kislev Conference
Picture (5) Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Rabbinical Alliance of America; welcoming Mr. Pesach Osina, Jewish Communal Liaison, NYC Council Speaker Adriana Adams to the RAA Rosh Chodesh Kislev Conference
Picture (6) Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Rabbinical Alliance of America; welcoming Rabbi Moshe Brandsdorfer, executive director, Torah Initiatives, Orthodox Union to the RAA Rosh Chodesh Kislev Conference
Picture (7) Mr. Pesach Osina, Jewish Communal Liaison, NYC Council Speaker Adriana Adams; speaking at the RAA Rosh Chodesh Kislev Conference
Picture (8) Rabbi Moshe Brandsdorfer, executive director, Torah Initiatives, Orthodox Union; speaking at the RAA Rosh Chodesh Kislev Conference
Picture (9) Inspector Richard Taylor, commanding officer, Community Affairs/Community Outreach Bureau; speaking at the RAA Rosh Chodesh Kislev Conference
Picture (10) Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president, Rabbinical Alliance of America; speaking at the RAA Rosh Chodesh Kislev Conference