by Elizabeth Kratz 10/18/2017

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Rabbi Kenneth Brander

Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, Yeshiva University’s vice president for university and community life, has been named the new president-elect and rosh hayeshiva of Efrat-based education network Ohr Torah Stone (OTS), set to succeed the venerable Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the Israeli education network’s founder and chancellor, who will stay on in his role as chief rabbi of Efrat. Rabbi Brander’s transition will begin in February, with Rabbi Riskin stepping down in July.

Rabbi Brander’s official role at OTS will be cemented when he makes aliyah with his wife, Ruchie, and their 12-year-old son Yitzchak, this August. In Israel, they join two sons who already have made aliyah: Yoni and daughter-in-law Yehudit, with the Branders’ first “Sabra” grandson Nadav; and Yosef Dov, a former Golani Brigade sharpshooter, who is now a student at Tel Aviv Law School. One son, Rabbi Tuvia, his wife Miriam and daughter Amalya Hodaya, the Branders’ second grandchild, will stay in West Hartford, where he is a pulpit rabbi and Miriam works at Federation. Daughter Tehillah, a genetic counselor at a high-risk OB-GYN practice, is also living stateside.

Rabbi Brander, is well-known for having been the rabbi of the vibrant 700-families-strong Boca Raton Synagogue in Florida, which had 60 families when he joined, and, later, starting in 2005, as founding YU Dean of the Center for the Jewish Future. He also teaches pulpit rabbinics at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS).

During his time at YU, he is most proud of his imbuing a sense of service to the student body by providing opportunities for them to engage outside the classroom, which has created strong lay leaders in communities across the country, and in his stewardship of YU’s Israel programming and Stern College’s GPATS (Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies), which have been under his purview since he began his role as vice president in 2013. “We also developed YUTorah ( and the Holidays-to-Go publication series, which have impacted hundreds of thousands in our community,” Rabbi Brander told The Jewish Link.

Rabbi Riskin told The Jewish Link that he thinks Rabbi Brander is a true fit for OTS. “At the present time, Rabbi Brander is very well known in many circles in Israel, as he heads YU’s Israel-based initiatives. I’m certain that he will become known throughout Israel as an educational leader and a Modern Orthodox halachist in fairly short order,” Rabbi Riskin said.

Rabbi Brander noted that Rabbi Riskin is “a personal hero,” and working with him and Rabbi David Stav is an opportunity he anxiously awaits. His aliyah is also an exciting move in and of itself, as he explained that Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, the founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh, was Rabbi Brander’s assistant rabbi at the Boca Raton Synagogue, and NBN was incubated in Boca. “My wife and I have talked about aliyah multiple times; it has been a lifelong dream. We have consulted multiple poskim about our potential aliyah at various times since we were so engaged in Jewish community work in the Diaspora. I think what OTS did for us is provides us with the impetus to join an educational network that has had an immense impact on the Religious Zionist community in Israel,” with the various programs having “multiple portals of entry” for Jews to engage and further their learning, as well as the fact that OTS has also a strong impact on Diaspora Jewry.

“OTS is an incubator for academic excellence, outreach and social advocacy. With the help of Rav Stav and the professional and lay leadership of OTS, we are hoping to make an even larger impact on Israel and the Diaspora as well.” . …Click here to read the rest of the article on the Jewish Link website


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