For the week ending 30 November 2002 / 25 Kislev 5763

Kislev 5763

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Dear Alumnus,

As Chanukah approaches, with its "Happy Light" so reminiscent of the "Ohr Somayach" you experienced and enjoyed, we send you this update in the form of eight highlights corresponding to the eight lights of Chanukah.


The JEWISH LEARNING EXCHANGE of Ohr Somayach in London had a very exciting weekend around Shabbos Parshas Toldos (December 8-10). This outreach center, which caters to over a thousand students each week, combined a Shabbaton Seminar for a hundred students, a Gala Annual Melava Malka Dinner for supporters, and a public Memorial Tribute to Rav Nachman Bulman, zatzal, all in the space of less than two days. The Scholar-in Residence who addressed all these events was the Rosh Hayeshiva of Ohr Somayach, Rav Mendel Weinbach, shlita.

The JLE staff of 40 full-time and part-time personnel is headed by alumnus Rabbi Danny Kirsch and includes alumni Rabbis Akiva Tatz, Robert Chevins, Johnnie Ross and Richard Jacobs.

A sideline of the weekend was the shiur given by the Rosh Hayeshiva to students of the Menorah Yeshiva High School who voluntarily came to the JLE on their day off from school to receive some chizuk from him. The father of one of those students who also came was alumnus Rabbi Yitzchak Freeman who climaxed a decade of serving as a top teacher in the Jewish Free School by being appointed to the prestigious position of headmaster of the Avigdor Primary School.



On January 14, 2003, some of the most prominent leaders of the New York business community will get together at The Pierre in Manhattan to pay tribute to Ohr Somayachs three decades of service to the Jewish community and to demonstrate the solidarity of American Jewry with Israel.

One of the supporters being honored, Joel Press, recently visited London and dropped in on the JLE to see for himself what Ohr Somayach is doing outside of its Jerusalem campus which he has already visited. In a letter to the Rosh Hayeshiva, Rav Nota Schiller, shlita, he reports that "it was just an outstanding insight as to what Ohr Somayach is doing outside of my own little shtetel." After praising Danny Kirsch as a "true mensch with a business and marketing sense that brings religion, Torah and Talmud to people in a package that is irresistible", this excited friend of the yeshiva concludes that "Ive never been prouder to be part of the Ohr Somayach family."


Ever since Ohr Somayach made the JEWISH ENRICHMENT CENTER its outreach affiliate in Manhattan (176 Madison Avenue, between 33rd and 34th Streets), this vibrant facility headed by alumni Mordechai Mindell and Lawrence Hajioff has been buzzing with activity. Rav Schiller has given shiurim there and was Scholar-in-Residence at a Shabbaton. Another Shabbaton featured Jerusalem staff members Rabbis Dovid Gottlieb, Dovid Orlofsky and Saul Mandel. Guest speakers included scientist entrepreneur Mark Rutenberg from Monsey.


When one of the senior officials of the Israel Ministry of Education in charge of teachers training programs informed us that he was planning a visit to South Africa, we welcomed the opportunity of having him meet the products of our Ohr Lagolah Leadership Training Program funded by the Ministry. Mr. Yehuda Badichi has been a valuable advisor and supervisor of this program from its inception over a decade ago and he derived great nachas from seeing first-hand what our more than a dozen alumni are doing in the field of Jewish education in Johannesburg and Cape Town. We have invited him to report his observations to our current body of Ohr Lagolah students, the largest group we have ever had.


When the fifth light of Chanukah will be lit by Jews in the United States on December 4th, there will be a reception in the White House for Jewish officials and for chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces. One of those chaplains will be Captain Rabbi Daniel J. Cohen (known in Ohr Somayach days as Avraham Cantor) who spent five years at the yeshiva, two of them in the Ohr Lagolah Program. Stationed at Ramstein Air Base of NATO in Germany, he has given alumni outreach activities a new dimension by serving a hundred military personnel and Defense Department employees and distributing a weekly Torah newsletter to 250 of them.


Some exciting new features have been added to the high quality OHRNET WEBSITE which already includes a variety of materials on the weekly parsha, insights into the weekly Daf Yomi, "Love of the Land" and questions of halacha and hashkafa. The new features include "Israel Forever" a perspective on current events based on the weekly parsha; "The Human Side of the Story" a human interest piece with a Torah angle; and a special section on questions of social and business ethics. We are also planning a feature spotlighting current students and alumni in order to show the world the quality of people who come to Ohr Somayach and the value of the contribution they make to the Jewish community after they leave.


Despite concern over security we are expecting a solid turnout for our Winter JLE in Israel which will take place for North American and British students from December 22 January 13 and for Southern Hemisphere (South Africa and Australia) from December 11-31. Some of the participants will be veterans of the Birthright trips of the past and all are top quality students from leading universities. Joining our regular staff to help out with the JLE will be Rabbi Yitzchak Ziskind who is being "borrowed" from the JLE in London.


One of the biggest concentrations of Jews today is in Southern Florida. On November 17th the students at University of Miami got a delicious taste of Jerusalem when Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky spoke for them. Rabbi Sammy Bregman, a product of Ohr Somayachs JLE Program, is the director of a highly successful campus program initiated by a local group with the guidance of alumnus Rabbi Shmuel Kalos, the Ohr Somayach representative in Miami. Rabbi Orlofsky, a senior instructor in our "DERECH" program, and a highly sought after speaker throughout the world, went on a whirlwind tour of schools in the USA to introduce them to learning opportunities in Israel after high school.


We hope that these eight highlights will provide you with a Very Happy Chanukah.

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