Nearly 1000 people were in attendance for the Israeli installation of Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander as President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone at the Jerusalem Theatre on Wednesday, November 14th, launching an investiture period which will culminate in a festive Investiture Dinner in New York on December 19th.
Honored guests included Deputy Defense Minister Eliahu Ben Dahan; MK Shuli Mualem; Former Supreme Court justice Elyakim Rubinstein; Director General of the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, Dvir Cahana; Mayor of Efrat Oded Revivi; Mayor of Gush Etzion Shlomo Neeman; Yinon Ahiman, Director General of OTS; Rabbi David Stav, member of the OTS Spiritual Advisory Council; Chairman of the Ohr Torah Stone Israel Board, Dr. Roy Stern and others.
The evening was launched with a powerful production highlighting Rabbi Riskin’s years of activity and impact since first establishing Ohr Torah Stone in 1983 through the founding of the Neveh Shmuel High School for boys in Efrat. Students’ performances and audiovisuals from OTS leaders and key faculty succinctly illustrated how that very first high school developed into what is today a thriving educational and social action network of 27 programs and institutions making an indelible mark upon Jewish scholarship, leadership and tikkun olam in Israel and throughout the world.
The emotional highlight of the evening came as Rabbi Riskin pronounced over Rabbi Brander the priestly blessing and officially conferred upon him leadership of Ohr Torah Stone.
“I had many sleepless nights after realizing that I had to find a replacement,” said Rabbi Riskin in his moving address. “Thank God, I am overwhelmed with joy that I merited to find Rabbi Brander. I found a person with a Torah worldview, whose life and behaviors are based on Torah, and who moves forward in every decision and initiative within the space of our infinite Torah – a Torah of chessed and a Torah which is not afraid to address all of the challenges of the modern world and seek solutions to all the difficult problems. I am supremely grateful to Rabbi Brander, and I am confident that he will not only carry on the dream, but that he will expand upon it in his own inimitable way.”
After being presented with a freshly-signed parchment of ‘hasmacha‘ – a symbolic writ of official leadership – Rabbi Brander addressed attendees. “In the constellation of international Jewish communities, there is no parallel to Israeli Jewry,” he said. “For our Israeli community is a modern Divine creation, which holds the critical responsibility and obligation in securing the Jewish future and guaranteeing the eternality of the Jewish story.
“As Ohr Torah Stone’s new President and Rosh HaYeshiva,” said Rabbi Brander, “I intend to lead OTS in continuing to shape the next generation of Israeli society and world Jewry. We will ensure that our religious and educational initiatives are relevant, contemporary, and creative. We will work with more intensity to protect and free the aguna and rid this malignancy from the makeup of our community. We will expand women’s scholarship and leadership, and ensure that our rabbis, educators and spiritual leaders are effectively able to deal with the modern challenges facing the Jewish community in the 21st century. Our mission is not to dictate the path to those with whom we engage – the thousands in our classrooms and the hundreds of thousands we connect with in the community. Rather, we wish to create the music enabling each person to find his or her own spiritual sound through which they connect to the Jewish people, the Torah and the State of Israel.”
Yinon Ahiman, Director General of Ohr Torah Stone: “Rabbi Riskin merited to achieve his dream and establish a uniquely groundbreaking life’s work; under his wings thousands of youth and adults have studied and grown. Rabbi Brander’s style and his outlook on Torah, halakha, education and social issues is the right person to continue paving the path. I am confident that he will continue the vision and lead Ohr Torah Stone’s myriad institutions to significant heights and advance to new levels our vision of illuminating the importance and relevance of Judaism and the Torah throughout Israel and the Diaspora.”
The historical evening was sealed by an energetic performance of Yonatan Razel featuring Kobi Oz which had everyone out of their seats and dancing in the aisles. Feelings of love, family, inspiration and excitement were palpable.
In his remarks, Rabbi Riskin said, “The true obligation for saying the shehecheyanu blessing is when you participate in an event that truly makes you happy – and that is precisely what is happening here today.”