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For the week ending 19 May 2018 / 5 Sivan 5778

Belief - The Challenge of Our Time

by Rabbi Shlomo Simon
Artscroll Library

The Ohr Somayach “travelling Yom Iyun lectures,” directed by Rabbi Chaim Salenger of our staff, just wrapped up another banner year of touring North America. Rabbis Drs. Dovid Gottlieb, Akiva Tatz and Yitzchok Breitowitz were the speakers. The topic was “Belief – The Challenge of Our Time”. The schedule was “punishing”. Beginning in Los Angeles on April 23rd, then to Toronto on April 25th, on Sunday April 29th the speakers were in Woodmere, New York (one of the Five Towns), and then in Baltimore on Monday night April 31st, Chicago on Tuesday night, May 1st, Cleveland on Wednesday night May 2nd, and ending with Detroit on Thursday night May 3rd. Yet, in spite of the heavy travel schedule, the rabbis electrified the audiences, which were large and diverse.

I was at the events in the Five Towns and Cleveland and can personally attest to the enthusiasm of the participants and their audiences. The location of the event in New York was the Young Israel of Woodmere, reputed to be the largest Young Israel in the world. Its main shul, which seats approximately 600-700, was full. Jews from all over the New York metropolitan area were there and many expressed to me their gratitude to Ohr Somayach for arranging such an impressive panel. Rabbi Zechariah Fruchthandler, the chairman of the Ohr Somayach Mentors’ Missions was the emcee. He introduced the speakers and gave a brief description of the Mentors’ Missions. After the lectures a number of people approached us about joining the Mentor’s next trip in July. Many thanks are due to Rabbi Hershel Billet, the Rabbi of Young Israel of Woodmere, Rabbi Shay Schachter and Rabbi Shalom Axelrod, also of Young Israel of Woodmere, who made the event possible. Thanks are also due to Mr. Yehoshua Shloush and his daughter Aliza Shifra, of North Woodmere, who provided essential help in the planning and running of the event.

When I invited people to the event in Cleveland the response was consistent: “Are they going to be on a live feed from Jerusalem?” “No,” I said, “they’re coming to the Young Israel of Cleveland.” People were almost incredulous that such an illustrious trio would be there in person. The crowd was large and enthusiastic and included a wide spectrum of the community. Having lived in Cleveland before making aliyah, it was a special treat for me to see so many old friends at the event. Much thanks is due to Rabbi Dan Olgin, an alumnus of Ohr Somayach and a kiruv rabbi in Cleveland and Columbus, who organized the event, and to his family who aided in the preparation and running of it.

Detroit was the last stop on the tour and had a standing-room-only crowd of more than 400 people. Many thanks are due to Rabbis Dovid Shapero and Michael Hochhauser for organizing the event.

The speakers were likewise very satisfied with the audiences and the synergy created by their talks. Rabbi Gottlieb told me during a conversation O had with him that he sensed that the order of speakers — him, followed by Rabbi Tatz, and then lastly Rabbi Breitowitz — created a structure that he likened to a person. His lecture — a logical approach to belief — was the “head”; Rabbi Tatz — whose lecture was esoteric and spiritually oriented — was the “heart”; and Rabbi Breitowitz, who spoke of how the performance and underlying structure of mitzvot leads us to belief, provided the “limbs”.

Ohr Somayach is very proud that we have such talented, intellectual and professional speakers to offer to the Jewish World. We are looking forward to next year’s tour, Iy”H.

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