Welcome to the weekly newsletter of Igud HaRabbonim, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, in which we share news for and about members, including communal news, announcements, publications, Divrei Torah, press releases and media mentions.
In this newsletter:
• Mohel App to Strengthen the Mitzvah of Milah
• Grants For Rabbis Who Enroll Public School Boys In Yeshiva
• 5TJT: CUNY Union
• Arutz Sheva: CUNY Union
• Covid Update: July 28, 2021
• Divrei Torah: Eikev
• Upcoming Yahrtzeits 22 Av-29 Av
• Chaplaincy Comission update
• The Rabbinical Alliance of America Applauds the 50 CUNY Faculty Members who Resigned from Professional Staff Congress, the College Systems Union, Over its Anti-Semitic Statement on Israel
Please let us know about your family simchos and l"a aveilus, book publications and career changes or milestones, so we can share as chaveirim our life events. Send updates to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I send this to our Chaveirim regarding the critical need to strengthen and uphold the most essential Mitzva of Bris Milah.
Unfortunately in today’s environment there are those requesting a doctor vs a mohel. It is critical to educate parents that using a doctor will most likely result in an invalid bris with irreparable harm. Furthermore, doctors use a clamp that is prohibited – causing crushing pain and trauma to the child.
I am a Mohel with 30 years of experience and director of the International Bris Association. We are affiliated with the largest network of traditional Mohalim. As part of our service, the IBA has developed an app specially for Mohalim. The app helps Mohalim be efficient in their service and sends a Bris Certificate to the parents of a child receiving a bris.
It has been my observation that in addition to education the bris certificate provides an incentive to the unaffiliated parents in using a qualified mohel vs a doctor. This certificate as saved can also be used later in life to assist in verifying the Jewishness of the individual.
To download the app Mohalim can sign up at Mohel.me
Rabbi Jacob London Yeshiva in Brooklyn has procured a grant in conjunction with the Committee for Yeshiva Education to encourage enrollment of Jewish boys, Bar Mitzvah boys, in Junior High School and High School, from Public School to Rabbi Jacob London Yeshiva.
The grant affords an opportunity for organizations, Rabbonim etc., shlichim etc., who successfully refer and enroll a boy at the Yeshiva and he attends, the grant is $1,000 per child payable to the Rav and his organization etc.
The initial grant is for $25,000 for 25 children from public school and enroll them in the Rabbi London Yeshiva.
The members of the Igud know the work of Rabbi London for klal Yisrael: Preparatory program for those getting started, dorm facilities for out of towners, scholarships for qualified families, etc.
We would like to get the word out to the chaverim in the Igud if they have shuls with Bar Mitzvah boys or know kids in their areas.
The Yeshiva is prepared to welcome every Jewish boy bar mitzvah age and up, regardless of family background, limited Hebrew background or ability to pay.
Through the fund, the Rav will be compensated for his time and effort for being misasek in the inyan.
With the recent updated guidelines from the CDC published July 27, 2021, many Rabbonim and lay shul leaders have asked for my opinion as to how this will impact shuls. While iy”H at a future time we will have an opportunity to explore this in more detail, for now, here are my recommendations.
For now, certain medical information from the updated CDC guidelines and the evidence based literature are essential for Rabbonim to understand.
First and most important, the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States remain very effective against severe illness and death from SARS-CoV-2 (aka COVID-19) infection. Based upon the evidence based medical literature, the continued great importance of vaccination is not medically in doubt, despite “contrary” information advocated and voiced on non-scientific social media sites. Halacha demands we follow the scientific facts and best evidence, as our great poskim have reiterated time and time again.
It is also critical to realize that the overwhelming majority of current US COVID-19 cases are occurring in unvaccinated individuals. Significantly increasing vaccination rates are urgently needed to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. Unfortunately, as of yesterday, less than 58% of the eligible population of the US has been fully vaccinated.
Many shuls have completed surveys and / or anecdotally told me that their vaccinated populations are indeed much higher than this. BH, that is great if true. However, one needs to remember that unvaccinated people almost never respond to these surveys, guests coming to shuls are never included in such tallies, and patients coming to shul with symptoms remains a persistent concern. Clearly, even vaccinated persons can potentially transmit COVID-19, although much less so than unvaccinated infected individuals.
The spread of the highly transmissible Delta variants (plus other “variants of concern”) have caused CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky to state: “This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.” Hence, the CDC updated guidelines.
The major changes associated with the newly released recommendations (NOTE: they are not binding upon local Departments of Health who are free to adopt them, modify them to be more or less stringently implemented, or totally ignore them) involve five critical data points:
1) Level of COVID-19 community transmission; 2) Local health system capacity; 3) Local vaccination coverage; 4) Capacity for early detection of increases in COVID-19 cases; 5_ Specific populations at greater risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19.
Many of these factors are not easily quantifiable or even identifiable, and can rapidly change from week to week.
Therefore, among strategies to prevent COVID-19, the CDC made the following new recommendations:
1) Allunvaccinated persons should wear masks in public indoor settings. They do NOT distinguish between people who previously had COVID-19, whether antibodies are present, and / or other reasons for not being vaccinated. While there are data to suggest that previously having COVID-19 does indeed make the likelihood of acquiring a second episode of COVID-19 much less, we simply do not have adequate information on what this means regarding the Delta 9 (or other) variants.
2) Fully vaccinated persons should wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. The definition of this according to Dr. Walensky is:
a. “Substantial” transmission: 50 – 100 cases / 100,000 people over a 7-day period; b. “High” transmission: 100-plus cases / 100,000 people over a 7-day period.
3) Fully vaccinated persons at greater risk might consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings, regardless of transmission level. If a person (or someone in their household) is immunocompromised and / or at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in their household is unvaccinated (including children aged <12 years who are currently ineligible for vaccination), this is an important option.
a. This is a personal choice that is impossible to recommend globally to all communities or shuls for immediate global policy implementation because of the impossible logistics involved, and lack of medical clarity.
b. However, certain high risk settings (minyanim in a senior center or nursing home, residential communities primarily dealing with older populations) might want to explore this option globally in more depth with local medical professionals.
c. Certainly, individuals who are requesting such accommodations should be allowed and encouraged to have such “safer” spaces to daven.
Each individual community / shul should re-examine their current policies and decide what is best for them based upon the critical factors outlined. I am NOT recommending specific global changes to my prior recommendations for all shuls at this time (July 27th, 2021). This is a very rapidly changing field though, with new information from here and Eretz Yisroel coming out daily, which could impact my recommendations in the future.
May Hashem continue to protect us in this pandemic – which is by no means over.
From the desk of Rabbi Leonard (Yehuda) Blank, MS, BCC
Director of Programming, Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud Harabbonim
917- 446-2126 email@example.com
July 29, 2021
This past Sunday was the Tu B Av Together Let’s Daven Together (A Yad L’ Achim Initiative). There were rabbonim offering words of inspiration as well as musical performances by well known singers. It was shown in many countries throughout the world with chapters of Tehilim recited by Klal Yisrael lead by each of the rabbonim. Donations were accepted, but not required for anyone who wanted to submit a name for a shidduch as well as a refuah sheleima. Though, Tu B Av came out this past Shabbos, the concept for tefilos especially for a shidduch was supported by various rabbonim including Rav Chaim Kanievsky from Eretz Yisrael. The list of rabbonim who spoke included Rav Eytan Feiner, Rav Yissocher Frand, Rav Shimon Galai, Rav Warren Goldstein, Rav Dovid Goldwasser, Rav YY Jacobson, Rav Paysach Krohn, Rav Berel Lazar, Rav David Ozeri, Rav Yisrael Reisman and Rav Asher Weiss. An estimated 500,000 worldwide would be participating.
One of Klal Yisrael’s greatest attribute is doing chesed. After all, one of the three pillars as mentioned in Pirkei Avos, Ethics of Our Fathers are Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chasadim. The saintly Chofetz Chaim wrote extensively not only the essence of chesed, but all the various types of and ways of doing chesed. Helping or having a share in bringing two individuals together to the chupah no matter what age group is truly a wonderful chesed. However, as with many acts of chesed helping others can often involve different dynamics and the need for understanding, not just being tactful is so important. There are those who wish to remain single for whatever reason they may have. There are those who need appropriate support and sometimes guidance. There are those who would be grateful to be engaged in conversation of their desire for a meaningful relationship and marriage. There are those who prefer their privacy, not wishing to divulge personal things, but only with someone they feel comfortable and safe with. What is tremendously important is being careful not to get involved in loshon harah. The Ribono Shel Olam loves Klal Yisrael and there are many ways to express and show one’s love to Him. to each other- especially between husband and wife. There are other types of relationships such as business partners. I was recently asked why a widow or widower should want to get remarried, what is it for them especially perhaps past childbearing age. My response is the same for anyone of any age. There are also those who decide to have a relationship and marriage at a later age who are not Boruch H widow or widowers. Is it just companionship? This is not the column for detailed conversation about relationships, but for those who never thought about why there are those who are older (and remember, not old, but older- no matter what age- the AARP starts with age 50).) have a desire to truly want a new and meaningful relationship. Caring about and for each other. Not just someone to have a conversation with, or a companion to go places with or do things together with. For that, one doesn’t need marriage, just friendship. Sincerity, with one’s heart, feelings, true desire for as I mentioned above to care for each other. Real, goodness, kindness chesed because two people want to have a meaningful relationship and a life together filled with joy, happiness and shalom. For those who are younger part of that is also having a family of their own and building a legacy for years to come. What about a widow or widower’s spouse who died? He or she will always be remembered by everyone who he/she had an impact on in their lives. I did not invoke the word love. I did touch upon that word in my article last week. Love is a sacred word and should not be used loosely. Sincerity is what truly counts with love and how it is applied though it sometimes used to express one’s appreciation of something such as I love the color, I love that food, I love that painting, I love that… …. and then there is the expression of one’s feelings about someone important or meaningful to that person, family, spouse and most of all, our love for H and our Torah. I wish to revisit once again, how important it is to be understanding and appreciate the goodness of anyone who for whatever the reason might be, not to have chosen the path of marriage, but the path of friendship. It serves no purpose to try to understand decisions made by anyone should their desire not to share nor reveal their personal reasons in life.
I share the above thoughts as it is important for rabbis, rebbitzens, chaplains and others who might not have given thought as to the feelings, concerns and aspirations of singles, older adults, widows, and widowers. This is not a shidduch column, but another way of looking through the lens of others and the relationship doing chasadim and caring for others and each other. We want to follow in the ways of H with all our heart and love. In Parshas Eikev (11:13) “Hayom, today. The commandments should always be as fresh and beloved to you as if you had received them today (Rashi).” “Liahavaw To love. The commandment to love G was given in the first passage of the Shema (6:4). The context of this passage indicates that one should perform the commandments as an expression of love of G, not to attain riches or honor. One should perform the commandments purely out of love, and the honor will come ultimately (Rashi)” (The Stone Edition Chumash Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd). In discussing how Reuven perceived the dreams of Yosef and the pursuit of Reuven doing what he considered correct, The Midrash contains an important insight into life. Two people can hear the exact same words and react in diametrically opposite ways. Yosef’s dream of a sun, a moon and eleven stars bowing down to him infuriated his brothers, who cried out, “Will you then reign over us? Will you then dominate us? “(Bereishis 37:8) That same dream filled Reuven’s heart with joy and calmed his fears that he and his descendants would be banished forever from the Jewish nation. Instead of being angered and insulted by Yosef’s grandiose dream, he felt honored and relieved that he was counted as one of the eleven stars! There are many situations in life where a person’s remarks may be interpreted in various ways, each listener hearing what he wants to hear. Wars between nations have broken out based on faulty communications. Countless business partnerships, friendships and marriages have been destroyed due to misconstrued remarks that wreaked havoc on the relationship. A Jew must train himself to look for the good in what he hears by following the advice of Chazal to judge everyone favorably) Pirkei Avos 1:6)” From Parsha Vaeshchanan Rav Pam on the Chumash by Rabbi Shimon Smith Artscroll Series Mesorah Publications Ltd (pages 204-205).
We find in many parts of our tefilos regarding our love and the love He has for us and His kindness. Here are several. When putting on the Tefilin after the shel rosh is put on, “From your wisdom, G ………,may You imbue me and from Your understanding grant me understanding; and with Your kindness deal greatly with me; …….The tefilla of Ahavaw rabaw we recite in shacharis “With abundant love have You loved us H, with compassion that is great and exceeding have You shown compassion to us. Our Father our King, for the sake of our forefathers who trusted in You and to whom You taught the decrees of life, so may You be gracious to us and teach us. Our Father the merciful Father Who acts mercifully, have mercy upon us, and instill in our hearts to understand and comprehend, to listen, learn, teach, observe, perform, and fulfill all the words of the teaching of Your Torah with love. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, attach our hearts to Your commandments, and unify our hearts to love………. (Artscroll Siddur Schottenstein Edition Mesorah Publications Ltd).
Our hearts should be filled with sincerity however possible just as the Ribono Shel Olam loves Klal Yisrael so too, should our efforts be the same for others as well. Even with difficulties we see and share with others going through challenging times, we should be like the Aibershta and follow in His ways. How we listen to others as rabbis, rebbitzens and chaplains, our hearts should be filled with compassion, patience, understanding and willingness to be in the presence, offering a helping hand, a kind word, in the best way possible. I often stress the importance of achdus, of being mekadeish H. We could look at the world as being in turmoil, but what about the world we live in amongst and with each other. We cannot fix the world, nor can we fix the concerns of our fellow brothers and sisters in Klal Yisrael, but there is so much we can do to alleviate distress, and difficult times, bringing simchas hachayim into their lives with much kindness, love and understanding and of course our own blessings for them and each other. We listen to what one is saying and sharing with concentration and no preconceived thoughts of being right or wrong. We should not be judge and jury, just be sincere. I have also written about being ambassadors of H and Klal Yisrael. That is so true and can do so in so many ways. I shared in some previous articles about my experiences with NYC bus drivers. I walk from shul in the morning and evenings to the bus stop with a dear chaver who I have gained much inspiration in many ways. Whenever he boards the bus in the front, he turns around wishing me well and then I greet the bus driver offering a kind word, a smile and there are now a number of drivers who reciprocate with their own kind words to me and remove their masks to give me a smile, offering their thanks and even thumbs up – all in front of other passengers. No matter what the color of their skin, male, and female, all have taken the few moments before closing the doors wishing me well as I do to them. I find the same in greeting men and women in the neighborhood and how they reciprocate. My dear and chashuva chaver is in aw of the responses given by those people of different cultural, language and color of skin. Many of the same people we meet will greet us often with a big smile.
Before I conclude, I would like to share the following: There is a remarkable Talmud Chacham who davens near where I daven. His kavaneh, his way of davening is with tremendous heart and soul to Hakadosh Boruch Hu. When he responds to Yehei Shemei Rabaw whichever of the Kaddeishim is recited, “May His name that is great be blessed forever and for all eternity” he follows this “The Talmud (Shabbos 19b) teaches that one must respond Yehei Shemei Rabbaw with all his power meaning his total concentration (Rashi, Tosafos) Though it is preferable to raise one’s voice when saying it , one should not say it so loudly that he will invite ridicule (R’Yonah). It must be enunciated clearly. (Maharal). (Artscroll Schottenstein Edition Siddur Mesorah Publications Ltd)He reminds me of how much I must daven to the Aibershta with such feelings to Him with love and appreciation and always to be thankful for the opportunities He gives me. I am grateful to be in His presence as we all are. The next time you meet someone, give a smile and be grateful to Him for giving you the opportunity of sharing with your heart your sincere care as we can say for humanity, making a Kiddush H and whenever possible for bringing a smile on someone’s face. One cannot always know how that smile can wipe away some hidden tears a person might have.
May we all be zoche to bring joy, happiness and simchas hachayim not only to our own lives, but to others as well. May the bracha of Sim Shalom recited in the Shacharis and Musaf Shemoneh Esrei (and also on public fast days) be fulfilled. ”Establish peace, goodness, blessing, graciousness, kindness, and compassion upon us and upon all of Israel Your people. Bless us our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Your countenance, for with the light of Your countenance You gave us, H our G the Torah of life and a love of kindness, righteousness, blessing, compassion, life, and peace. And may it be good on Your eyes to bless Your people Israel, at every time and at every hour, with Your peace……..”(Schottenstin Edition, Artscroll Series Siddur, Mesorah Publications LTD)
Thank you for taking the time for reading this and my other articles
Sincerely, Rabbi Yehuda Blank
The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American rabbis — applauds the fifty CUNY faculty members who resigned or indicated that they will be resigning from the Professional Staff Congress (PFC), the College systems union, over its anti-Semitic statement on Israel.
The statement, which was released by the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) in response to the eleven days of violence between Israel and Gaza, did not mention Hamas or the rockets being fired indiscriminately into Israeli civilian areas. Instead, the statement condemned “the continued subjection of Palestinians to the state-supported displacement, occupation, and use of lethal force by Israel.” The statement described Israel as a “settler colonial state” and connected the “the Palestinian struggle for self-determination to the struggles of indigenous people and people of color in the United States.” The union also said that it would be exploring support for BDS (the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) during the upcoming fall semester.
“With the PSC CUNY resolution you have chosen to support a terrorist organization, Hamas, whose goal (‘From the River to the Sea’) is to destroy the state of Israel and kill all my relatives who live there,” wrote Professor Yedidyah Langsam, chairman of Brooklyn College’s Computer and Information Science Department and its faculty council, in a letter of resignation to the Professional Staff Congress obtained by the New York Post.
“I personally have an uncomfortable feeling interacting with these faculty, and as many students have written, feel exceedingly uncomfortable on campus,” Langsam continued. “For that reason, I have resigned from the PS-CUNY Union effective immediately, after being a member for over 40 years. I have urged my fellow faculty to immediately resign as well. You do NOT represent us, and I will not be a part of an organization that supports those who wish to destroy us.”
“By endorsing this resolution, you have made many Jewish faculty and students uncomfortable with being associated with Brooklyn College and CUNY to the point of fearing for our safety,” Langsam concluded. “Have you and your colleagues forgotten the exponential increase in anti-Semitic attacks against Jews in the NY City area?”
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, remarked that “the Rabbinical Alliance of America (RAA) commends the actions and protests taken by Professor Langsam and his colleagues against the one-sided, anti-Semitic statement issued by the PSC against Israel. Israel is not a ‘settler colonial state’ and there is no comparison or connection between ‘the Palestinian struggle for self-determination’ on one hand and ‘the struggles of indigenous people and people of color in the United States’ on the other.
“This accusation of the PSC implies that Jews stole Judea and Samaria, and contradicts thousands of years of history. It is a historical fact that Jews have lived in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem for millennia.”
Mirocznik continued, “Israel is the Jewish homeland, where Jews settled within the biblical borders thousands of years ago. Whether the Babylonians and the Greeks, the Romans and the Crusaders, the Ottoman and the British, many have occupied our land but only temporarily, because we keep returning to our homeland. There has always been a Jewish presence in Israel and particularly in Jerusalem. Even when foreign invaders persecuted us and made our lives miserable, Jews maintained a constant presence in Israel. Israel always served as a haven for Jews escaping persecution in Christian and Arab countries. It is a historical crime to now claim that Jews have no right to the land in which we have lived and for which we have prayed daily for thousands of years. Further, Israel permits non-Jews, Christians, and Muslims to reside all over Israel and never engages in any discrimination preventing these non-Jewish citizens from accessing equality and fairness under the law. From voting to owning property to serving in the government, etc., these non-Jewish citizens have full equality — A concept that is foreign to many in the middle-east.”
Judea and Samaria constitute the homeland of the Jewish people, with Jerusalem as its capital. The Jewish people will not be expelled or pressured out of our homeland. PSC should be ashamed of their attempt to deny to Jews their country. Shockingly, these academic scholars are on the wrong side of history.
Additionally, Israel responded with incredible restraint and humaneness to a barrage of deadly missiles fired indiscriminately into Israel by Hamas from the Gaza strip. The Israeli army warned Hamas to clear civilians from the area in advance of bombing the places from where the missiles were launched. Instead, Hamas chose to ignore those warnings and allow children and civilians to remain in danger in order to cynically manipulate the media narrative and falsely aint Israel as killers when the true villains, murderers and terrorists are Hamas and their enablers.
As a union that represents educators, PSC should do the right thing by apologizing and retracting their biased, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statement. The public expects more from our educators. What message is sent to the world by the city of New York, the city with the largest Jewish population outside the State of Israel, when its educators issue an obviously anti-Israel statement full of lies and hate? CUNY, New York City and New York State should be embarrassed by this blatant, politically motivated act of hatred.