OTS Graduate Tapped to Lead Modern Orthodox Community in Haredi Neighborhood
Rabbi Itamar Frisch, a musmach of OTS’s Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Rabbinical Seminary, has just been appointed Rabbi of the Modern Orthodox “Beit Knesset Dati Leumi” in Har Nof, Jerusalem.
“While most people in Har Nof are Haredi, we have many advantages for people who identify as Modern Orthodox — good local schools and a strong community in a beautiful, convenient location,” remarks Beit Knesset Dati Leumi Board Chair and longtime member, Simon Kahn. “With our previous rabbi retiring, we were looking for someone dynamic who can relate to people of all ages and, in particular, help us attract more young families,” he explains, noting “Rabbi Frisch was the perfect choice.”
Rabbi Frisch says he is looking forward to building up a warm community that speaks to people and which will be the center of their Jewish life. He speaks passionately about the importance of interaction between Judaism and contemporary living, a central value of Modern Orthodoxy.
This synthesis was also a focal point of his semicha studies at the Straus Seminary. Through the Mordecai and Monique Katz Academic Studies Program, students are encouraged to take classes in many different areas so they will understand how the various academic disciplines interact with Judaism.
“What happens within the four walls of the yeshiva cannot be separated from what happens in the rest of the world,” Rabbi Frisch relates. “We have to be able to take our Torah knowledge and also look outward.”
As he begins his new role, he seeks to do exactly this – to use his Torah knowledge combined with all of the skills he has gained to inspire, counsel and guide people of all ages through the various moments of their lives, and strengthen his new community.
What it means to be the rabbi of a community
“Ohr Torah Stone’s rabbinic studies program provides excellent preparation – probably the best in Israel – for young men interested in becoming community rabbis,” attests Rabbi Frisch, who is currently studying at the Eretz Hemdah Institute towards certification as a dayan (rabbinic judge) in Israel, a rigorous eight-year course.
“I think Ohr Torah Stone’s rabbinic seminary may be the only one in Israel that provides real, practical rabbinic training alongside halakhic study,” Rabbi Frisch attests. “The learning is on a very high level, but at the same time, the focus is very much on helping people understand what it means to be the rabbi of a community. All of the rabbis are or have been community rabbis, and they bring that wealth of experience into the classroom,” he adds.
“The Straus Rabbinical Seminary’s five-year program has been designed to ensure that students pass the five exams required for rabbinical ordination under the Israeli Chief Rabbinate with excellence, and that they receive the preparation required for positions of community leadership within Israel,” confirms Ohr Torah Stone President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander. “Our students gain in-depth halakhic knowledge, alongside the tools they will need to successfully navigate the many different opportunities and challenges they will face as community leaders.”