At a festive Investiture Dinner in New York City on December 19th, Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander was installed as President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, one month after the investiture season was launched with an Israeli event at the Jerusalem Theatre.
Scores of friends and supporters attended the official investiture of Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander as OTS President and Rosh HaYeshiva at a festive Dinner in New York on Wednesday, December 19, 2018 celebrating the passing of the mantle of leadership from the network’s founder, Rabbi Dr. Shomo Riskin, to Rabbi Brander.
At the Dinner, Marion & Maurice Spanbock were honored with a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award and bestowal of the title “Chavrei Kehilla,” in recognition of their steadfast support and longtime friendship.
Bret Stephens, senior political contributor for NBC News, was the keynote speaker.
In his address, Rabbi Brander said, “Founder and Chancellor Emeritus Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin’s contributions to Israel and world Jewry over the course of the past five decades have been instrumental in shaping today’s Modern Orthodox society. We’re building upon this foundation and continuing to address the cutting-edge issues impacting the Jewish community.”
Rabbi Brander also laid out his vision for OTS and the future of Modern Orthodoxy both in Israel and abroad, acknowledging the challenges and opportunities facing Modern Orthodoxy and stating that in addition to looking forward, we must look horizontally. He shared his vision for ensuring that all of Ohr Torah Stone’s 27 institutions champion an education that in spiritually enthused and religiously relevant, and which prepares their students to be religious leaders, public intellectuals, entrepreneurs and industry titans in all facets of society.
Rabbi Brander lauded the institution’s success in building the largest beit midrash for women in the world and shared that OTS plans to expand the way it trains women to play halakhically appropriate leadership roles, indicating that the next step is the need to parallel that intellectual engagement with ensuring that these women have the pedagogic skills, proper coaching and professional placement, so that they can serve in leadership positions throughout Israel and the world. In addition to the critical leadership roles that women already play, Rabbi Brander said, OTS wishes to expand their opportunities for service in synagogues in Israel, as chaplains in hospitals, as well as serving in roles of spiritual leadership in the IDF and the Israel police force.
Another initiative Rabbi Brander highlighted in his address was OTS’s desire to revolutionize the experience Israelis have with the synagogue and its rabbinate. In a recent survey of pulpit rabbis commissioned by OTS, respondents shared their expansive reach while simultaneously acknowledging deficiencies that they recognize in their own professional education. They commented on the need for greater ongoing educational and leadership training. As a result of this survey and feedback from the rabbis, Rabbi Brander announced that OTS plans to announce the creation of a program for rabbis who will take a year-long paid sabbatical to participate in a training program similar to what takes place in executive graduate programs in universities around the globe.
Guests at the Dinner were shown a film highlighting events from the Israeli investiture event which took place one month earlier at the Jerusalem Theater, kicking off the Investiture season.
Although unable to attend the Investiture Dinner, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks sent a videotaped message congratulating Rabbi Brander on his new appointment and blessing Rabbi Brander, Rabbi Riskin and Ohr Torah Stone: