Ohr Torah Stone Gifts Community With Daily Divrei Torah Ahead of Yom Kippur
By Pearl Markowitz | September 2, 2021
Ryan Hyman, Teaneck resident, assumed the role of executive director for North America of the Ohr Torah Stone institutions in November of 2020. Hyman is excited at the opportunity that this new position will provide him to impact the over 30 vibrant programs run under the rubric of Ohr Torah Stone. He is spearheading the current initiative that is providing a daily “gift” of Torah to Jewish communities throughout the world.
The divrei Torah will be offered by various Ohr Torah Stone program directors as well as by graduates of the Beren-Amiel Educational Emissary Training Program and the Straus-Amiel Rabbinic Emissary Training Programs that prepare rabbis and educators with the tools needed to serve as leaders in Diaspora communities as far flung as Hong Kong and Brazil and as close as Palo Alto and Teaneck.
The divrei Torah trace the journey from Elul, specifically starting with the beginning of Selichot that commenced on August 29 and will be offered until Erev Yom kippur, Wednesday, September 15. The initiative not only focuses on the spiritual journey that Jews across the globe embark on at this time of year, but includes the personal journey of each dvar Torah contributor, their influencers and how they came to serve the Jewish people in their varied capacities. To access the daily divrei Torah, go to ots.org.il/journeys-5782.
President and rosh hayeshiva of the Ohr Torah Stone network, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, to whom the torch was passed in 2018 from founder and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, describes the Ohr Torah Stone organization “as a Waze for the Jewish people, as it serves as a resource to help people of all ages and all Jewish backgrounds around the world to plot their journey and arrive safely at their destination, more educated, more confident and stronger than when they set out.”
Ohr Torah Stone oversees six junior high and high schools throughout Israel for boys and girls. Two of the institution’s high schools, Neveh Shmuel High School and Neveh Channah High School, are consistently ranked among the top high schools in Israel, with their graduates, both young women and young men, going on to serve in elite units in the IDF.
OTS’s yeshivot and midrashot prepare young Israeli men and women to build upon their Torah knowledge and personal character so as to serve in meaningful roles in the IDF, often in highly sought-after units.
To date, over 2,000 women from throughout the world are alumnae of the Maria and Joel Finkle Overseas Program at Midreshet Lindenbaum in addition to the several thousand Israeli alumnae of Midreshet Lindenbaum. The program offers English-speaking high school graduates an unparalleled Jewish learning experience through a year of intensive study in the Linda and Murray Laulicht Beit Midrash, noted as the largest beit midrash for women in the world. In addition, Midreshet Lindenbaum hosts the Amlat Program for Latin American Students on its Jerusalem campus. This past year Midreshet Lindenbaum, under the exceptional leadership of Rabbanit Sally Mayer, ensured that every student could fully experience her time in Israel through serious Torah learning, individual growth and fun and connection to the land despite the restrictions of the COVID pandemic.
The OTS Darkaynu Program is credited with being the only Orthodox program offering young men and women with special needs the opportunity to join their peers in a coveted gap year in Israel. Darkeinu offers a unique “side-streamed” curriculum in a highly structured program within a larger mainstream environment, in which Torah studies as well as vocational skills are offered.
The Darkaynu women’s program integrates the students with Midreshet Lindenbaum students. In prior years the men were integrated into Yeshivat Har Etzion’s programs, but since the onset of COVID they have spent their time at Ohr Torah Stone’s Robert Beren Machanaim Hesder Yeshiva. This past year Darkaynu students participated in over 300 hours of COVID-19 safe vocational training, first on campus and then, as health regulations permitted, in workplaces.
“Giving young men and women from the special needs community the same opportunities as their peers, to spend a gap year in Israel, is immensely fulfilling. I know several alumni from the Darkaynu men’s program from my years living in Los Angeles, and the impact on these men is remarkable!” commented Hyman.
Toward servicing the worldwide Jewish community, the Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Rabbinical Seminary of OTS offers two semicha programs. One is a two-year program that gives students the halachic knowledge they need to serve Diaspora communities, as well as a five-year program that trains rabbis for Israel. Both programs train future spiritual leaders who can bridge secular and religious realms. Over 318 rabbis have completed their semicha studies at the Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Rabbinical Seminary. The Monique and Mordechai Katz Academic Studies Program, which shares a campus with the Robert M. Beren Machanaim Hesder Yeshiva, incorporates classes in humanities, science and contemporary reality as part of the Torah curriculum for rabbinic students.
OTS is at the forefront of training women for leadership positions within the international Jewish community. Through its Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL), qualified women are offered the opportunity to engage in the highest levels of Torah scholarship through an intensive five-year program that includes practical training, enabling graduates to serve as spiritual leaders in communities, schools and other organizations. A recent initiative is the International Halakha Scholars Program, a new online program that will enable women throughout the world who are senior Jewish communal professionals and educators to deepen their knowledge of Halacha. Hyman shared that “the curriculum has been tailored to focus on halachic issues that are more prevalent in the Diaspora as well as hilchot Shabbat, aveilut, kashrut and nidda.’”
The OTS Yachad Program for Jewish Identity offers over 400,000 secular Israelis each year online classes, interactive programs, outdoor concerts, family day trips and holiday celebrations in parks and courtyards in towns and cities across Israel. Programs are held to mark Pesach, Purim and Tisha B’Av as well as Yom HaShoah and Yom Ha’atzmaut. These programs aim to engage secular Israelis in an active search for their roots and reclaim the sources and traditions of Judaism in terms that are meaningful and relevant to their own lives.
Finally, OTS is extremely proud of its Yad La’isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline, the largest international organization to provide expert legal representation for agunot, chained women, whose husbands refuse to grant them a Jewish get, divorce. Over 600 women receive free legal advice as well as individualized therapeutic support, parenting and job coaching and even food vouchers on an annual basis.Yad La’isha successfully obtains freedom for 60-70 agunot a year in Israel and around the world through the efforts of their team of to’anot, female legal representatives who are not only steeped in the halachot of divorce but each of whom holds an Israeli law degree. “In June, I had the remarkable experience of playing a direct role in helping an agunah who had been ‘chained’ by her abusive husband for 16 years,” Hyman shared. “From my office in New York I made all the necessary arrangements for ‘D’ to finally receive her get… Seeing the triumphant look on her face as she walked out of the Brooklyn beit din with her to’enet at her side was truly priceless.”
In September of 2020, Yad La’isha launched the Prenuptial Agreement Advocacy Initiative to educate Israelis about the key importance of signing a halachic prenuptial agreement as a means to reduce the number of agunot and the long and bitter battles they face. While the prenuptial agreement is the norm in the United States, Israel has not yet accepted this powerful tool preventing women and men from the abuse of recalcitrant spouses, a situation that Ohr Torah Stone is working actively to alleviate. (For further information visit haheskem.org.il.)
Additional OTS programs provide outreach to varied segments of the Jewish community throughout the world. According to Hyman there is no limit to the reach of OTS. Hyman hopes to capitalize on his years in the non-profit sector, working for such prominent Jewish communal institutions as Torah Academy of Bergen County, Chai Lifeline, Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Boys School and most recently the largest Jewish bone marrow registry in the world, Ezer Mizion. “My email signature says, ‘How can we make the world a better place together?’ Making the world better for future generations is a driving force behind my professional communal career, and I relish the opportunity to go on this important journey together with members of our extended Jewish community.”