27 March 2006

Cardinals and Bishops Visit

Today, as part of a World Jewish Congress led-delegation, around 30 bishops and two cardinals came to our school. The events began with an opening speech by Israel Singer, followed by a speech by Rabbi Avi Weiss, then one by our Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Dov Linzer, after which, we broke up into small groups and did some text studying of Berakhos 26b, where there is a discussion of the establishing of prayer. After about 45 minutes of that, there were, again, a couple little speeches, then Cardinal Lustiger spoke for a little bit, followed by a question and answer sequence, which was ended by lunch. Lunch, however, rather than ending the event, allowed for mingling among the students and bishops to talk.
One point that was emphasized was that, although Vatican II has been around for forty years, it has only been in the last twenty that Catholic-Jewish relations have really been progressing.

For more pictures, click here.
Steven I. Weiss has already blogged about the event.

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Alumnus highlighted

Rabbi Darren Kleinberg ('05) was recently highlighted in Shlagbytes, a blog run by Dr. Carl Hammerschlag, for Rabbi Kleinberg's recent devar Torah at his new storefront shul in Phoenix, Arizona.

15 March 2006

Review of Pre-Purim Shiur

Shira Salamone reviews Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot's recent Pre-Purim shiur as well as her first visit to the school over on her blog.

07 March 2006

2006 AIPAC Policy Conference

I, Ben Greenberg, along with fellow YCT student Yehuda Hausman, attended the 2006 Policy Conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington D.C. There were more than 4000 attendees including 1000 students from across the University, graduate schools and even high school level. AIPAC organized a special Rabbinical delegation to the Conference this year, in large part due to a report by CLAL on the status of Israel related curriculum at Rabbinical Seminaries. To this end there were specific lectures and presentations for the Rabbinical Delegation throughout the Conference including a talk entitled "The Rabbis Voice: A Congressional Perspective".

Besides the specific Rabbinic presentations the Rabbinical Delegation joined with the rest of the larger Conference for the daily Plenary activities including the Monday evening Gala Banquet that included the famous AIPAC roll call of Representatives and Senators that were in attendance at the dinner which concluded with practically the entire House of Representatives in attendance as well as a large portion of the Senate. Two popular Senators in particular that were highlighted were John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. In addition, Ambassadors from 58 nations were at the dinner, among them the ambassador from Afghanistan. The two keynote speakers at the dinner were Senator Susan M. Collins (R-ME) and Senator Evan Bayh (D-IA).

Tuesday began with the morning Plenary with the keynote address by Vice President Dick Cheney. After the morning Plenary attendees split into their geographic regions to meet with their Senators and later their Congressman to lobby for specific bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate including the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act (HR-4681) and the Iran Sanctions Act. Also, was a general lobbying push to approve the 2007 budget for military and foreign expense that includes $2.46 billion dollars in aid to Israel. I am registered in the State of New York so I met with both Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer as well as Representative Charles Rangel.

The 2006 Policy Conference ended after the lobbying appointments. This year's conference was both the most well attended generally and particulary by students in AIPAC's history.

06 March 2006

Third Gala Dinner

Last night, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah held its third annual gala dinner at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, honoring Hon. Dr. Dov Zakheim & Mrs. Deborah Bing Zakheim, Mr. Benjamin Belfer & Dr. Michelle Friedman, and the S. Daniel Abraham Semikha Fellows of 2006: Nissan Antine, Seth Braunstein, Yonatan Cohen, Zev Farber, Aryeh Leifert, Ari Leubitz, Jason Weiner. (The dinner journal can be found online.)
Before holding the dinner and presentations, a town hall meeting came together, with presentations from two recent graduates and two soon-to-be graduates, where they got to speak about the yeshiva in addition to answering questions (pictured to the right).
It was a pleasant evening with Dr. Ellie Kranzler providing some music, as well.
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05 March 2006

Michael Steinhardt Speaks at YCT

On Thursday 9 February, Michael Steinhardt came to speak at 'Chovevei' for the first time ever.
He started off with a prepared speech, which lasted 10-15 minutes, and then we entered into a Q&A session for about an hour and a half.
(As it is now over three weeks since he spoke, I am heavily relying on my notes....)
He sees a disrespect from the Orthodox towards the non-Orthodox movements of Judaism bad as it deteriorates the possibility for Orthodoxy to have an influence on the others. He would like to see a new and intimate communication on a variety of levels between the two. Quoting Hillel's statement, he said that one is not to separate from the community. This is a problem, as he sees the Orthodox doing so, perhaps out of a fear of spiritual contamination or for fear of legitimizing the non-Orthodox groups. Because of this, the Orthodox are losing out on the chance to share the joys and sorrow of the Jewish world.
He also shared a concern that the Orthodox community is becoming self-satisfied and myopic, which are traits that are found by all types of people who separate.
However, he said, there are things that the non-Orthodox can learn from the Orthodox: 1) self-sustaining devotion to Jewish practice, 2) a commitment to Jewish education, and 3) the family life.
An important question he asked was, "Why doesn't Orthodoxy work for the majority of Jews?"
He wanted to offer us, the Orthodox, a chance to be a part of the renaissance of the Jewish people.
He said that we need to see each other as equals and that we can learn from each other.
He said one doesn't need to have a methodology or a message in order to reach those who have no Jewish affiliation. He called the roughly two million American Jews who are not affiliated "almost the silent majority of the Jewish world."
As he is an atheist, when asked what he sees as so special about Judaism and the Jewish people, he responded that it was the specialness of the Jewish people. He says this specialness has been transmitted through religious training, though he would like to see some way of developing some other way to transmit it, though this hasn't happened yet. He would like to see a Judaism that will really fuel with joy and excitement.
He said that it's a shame that there is not rigorous outlet for Jewish youth after Birthright Israel (a successful program he helped start).
All in all, it was an interesting encounter, as we accepted that he was atheist and non-Orthodox, and that we knew he wasn't try to convince us towards his way of seeing things, but rather of trying to garner Orthodox involvement with the rest of the Jewish world.
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