Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Secular Yeshiva? Oxymoronic or About Time?

This picture is not just a plug for HODS - Though you should check them out.

Hat Tip to Esther at Jewlicious for breaking this out first.

According to an Article in YNet! A new Secular Yeshiva is opening up in Tel Aviv. It's being pushed by an organization called Bina. I'll let you guys read the article on your own. I'll just bring up what will certainly be the big debate, especially in the many circles where any Torah learning outside the classical Lithuanian framework is opposed vehemently and seen as destructive and perversion. Namely, there will be those who argue that any "Yeshiva" operating outside the classical orthodox framework is: a.) Not a Yeshiva, and b.) A negative development that is to be condemned and invalidated.

Now, while I wish to preference my remarks by stating that I would never personally attend a Yeshiva not founded on a commitment to Halacha and the Halachic Process as classically defined. I strongly believe that institutions such as this are vital to our current Jewish community and the survival of our people. As such I fully support its creation, and look forward to seeing what kind of students it produces.

Why is it vital? Simple. There are many, many, many, of our brothers and sisters out there who simply have no connection to the larger community. Our un-affiliated Jews. They are the Rov HaAm, the majority. And, largely, the unfortunate reality is that they are unreachable by the community at large. Unreachable by all denominations, by all sects, and by all organizations. They are the Sh'Lo Yodeah Lishol of our Passover Hagada (The son who doesn't even know what question to ask), or worse, they are what the Lubavature Rebbe described as the 5th son, not mentioned in the Haggada because he isn't even present at the Seder (Passover Meal). These are the people that we need to find a way to re-connect in a stigma free, pressure free, warm, loving, and welcoming environment. These are the people that need us to come to them. To meet them at their level. To extend a hand and bond of friendship.

That, to me, is what this new Yeshiva can be. B'Ezrat Hashem (With G-d's Help) it will be a place that the many lost and wondering souls will be able to find serenity. Where they can explore themselves, and our collective history, traditions, and teachings. Even if they themselves are not affected to become active, observant, and passionate members of our community, the mere fact that they are no longer fully ignorant brings hope for the next generation.

(Just as a side note: While I was attending the NCSY Staff Training Conference last week, one of the things that was discussed was the continued expansion of the divide between the orthodox world and the rest of the Jewish nation, especially the unaffiliated portions of the population. It was sort of a consensus on the part of the Rabbinic leadership that something needed to be done, and that we, as the NCSY advisors and as modern orthodox individuals, served the vital role as the bridge between the two worlds.)

This venture and vision is of course not without hesitation. It is very important that what is taught be authentic. In my mind, there is a huge difference between this proposed secular yeshiva, and other streams and movements looking to provide their own substance and direction. The key to the success of this institution is going to be in it's commitment to study the classic texts. To involve themselves in the 2000+ year traditions of our people. To be presented with the unaltered, truth and beauty of our Torah. The exposure is what's important. What they do once exposed is their personal journey.

I am comforted by the fact that among the teachers the article mentions is Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, head of the Religious Kibbutz Yeshiva on Ein Tzurim and who also happens to be on the advisory board for my own Yeshiva (YCT). He's been involved in the starting of many wonderful centers of Torah learning, including Yeshivat Har Etzion (Gush). And hopefully, his influence will keep this new endeavor on the right path.

[The Yeshiva's Overview by Bina]
[Another Article on the Secular Yeshiva]
[And Another Article on the Secular Yeshiva]

On to the Update of my father (Baruch Matan HaLevi ben Miriam), we're still waiting. I'm going to be heading Upstate tomorrow for a NCSY conference/convention and will B'Ezrat Hashem get to see him and find out more what the latest is. I think at this point we're waiting either on the Insurance company or a test result. (Or both.)

Anyway, I thank everyone for their continued prayers on his behalf.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

No News Is Good News Right?

Still no word on my father's new surgery date, or even as to whether or not they still plan on moving forward with the procedure, or intend on going with the transplant option. As the song says, "Waiting, Is the Hardest Part." (His Name Again, for use in your prayers, is: Baruch Matan HaLevi Ben Miriam.)

Speaking of waiting, it seems like that's all I did this past week. I was at an all week conference/staff training for NCSY in New Jersey. It seems like all I was doing was waiting for the current speaker to end.

I certainly appreciated the idea behind the conference, and the accommodations, but I still feel that way too much time was put into convincing us to do the job that all of us had already signed on to do, and next to know time was dedicated to providing practical skill set training.

There was alight at the end of the tunnel though, as the last day was actually a JSU (Jewish Student Union) training conference, and being that it was run by Shira Reifman, it proved to be a well organized, useful day. The materials and topics were relevant and immediately useful, and time was spent on practical skill acquisition, rather then self-aggrandizing pats on the back.

In the end though, it all provided a great excuse not to unpack, and now that I've finally returned to my apartment, (I spent a great Shabbos by he Reifman's and haven't seen my new apartment since the night I moved in,) I'm greeted by all my unpacked bags and boxes. I suppose it would be less daunting if I had furniture, especially book shelves and a dresser, into which I could unpack. I have a half-fakocked scheme to build myself a loft with shelves, and a desk under the bed that would save me a lot of space, but we'll have to see if that actually pans out. In the mean time I'm still sleeping on my air mattress toying with ideas.

Coupling all this with a parking ticket I just paid from the one and only night I kept my car in NYC and the current loud music blaring outside my apartment window from someone's car, my distaste for the city and everything about it is only being deepened and entrenched.It's going to be a long 6 years. At least I have a nice Chevra (Friendship Circle) in and around NYC, that should go a long way toward helping ensure I manage to endure my time here.

I start my program at Chovevei tomorrow with a Lunch orientation, and classes begin Monday. Maybe if I stay busy enough, I can avoid dwelling on my environment. It's going to be good to get into a routine. Anyway, if your in NYC and you don't think I know that yet, and you want to get together at some point, drop me a call or email me. The more people I manage to network with here, the greater my chances of survival. Now to Unpack...

** I'm adding this mostly so that I can remember, but also because others may want to go: [Check Out Flyer Here:]

Please join SimplyTsfat, Soul Farm and Pey Daled for a fantastic evening in support of
northern Israel.

Date: Motzei Shabbos Sept 9th
time: 9:30pm
where: 92nd street "Y"
1395 Lexington ave at 92nd street

To order tickets, call 212.415.5500. For more information or for sponsorship opportunities,
please contact Heidi at 516.823.4131 or visit www.tsfat.com.

all ticket sales will be going to help residents of norther Israel. Show your support and have a great evening

Another quick edit... Apparently I can't make the concert (my friend is having a Chanukat HaBayit though he doesn't know it, he calls it a house warming party), but that doesn't mean you shouldn't go to what should be a great performance.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Long Awaited Update

This is going to have to be brief, as I'm making my big move to NYC tomorrow and I still have to pack, do laundry, find directions, load the car, and get enough sleep to make the drive safely.

Camps done. It was a great summer. B'li Neder (Without making an oath) I'll write up more about the summer when things settle down, if they settle down.

I've got a wedding on Monday, and a multi day conference in NJ for NCSY the rest of the week. Yeshiva starts a week from tomorrow with a Sunday afternoon brunch. Come later that week I'm already back with NCSY staffing a Regional Board retreat and LTS (the Leadership Training Seminar). Needless to say I'm keeping myself busy.

As I promised a lot of people at camp, I will use this forum to keep people updated as to my fathers status. (His Name again is: Baruch Matan HaLevi Ben Miriam.) If you've already been reading my blog, then you already know that my father is facing some pretty major surgery. It had been scheduled for the 14th of August, but was postponed because one of the necessary pieces of equipment needed servicing. Where still waiting on a new date.

As a recap. He had CHF (Congestive Heart Failure) a little while back.He currently needs 3 of his 4 valves replaced, and needs to repair holes between the left and right side of his heart in both the upper and lower chambers. His heart also expanded, and he will need to have it brought back down to normal size. Currently there are only 3hospitals that have the equipment and expertise to perform the surgery he needs, Columbia Presbyterian in NYC (where he was originally scheduled to have it), a hospital in Boston, and a hospital in Cleveland. At this point, they are also starting to consider the option of an actual heart transplant. (They try to avoid this because of the long waiting lists, and frequent rejections of the transplanted organ.) The hardest part right now is the waiting.

With that said, I continue to thank all those of you who have been davening (praying) for him, and to those of you who will continue to do so. Todah Lechem (Thank You All).