For the second year, Miriam and I have been invited to attend the Yeshiva University Championsgate leadership conference in Orlando, Florida.
Championsgate is a conference that is its own mini community that shares the Yeshiva University vision of modern orthodoxy coming together to discuss common issues and challenges, and inspire each other on building our respective communities.
Miriam and I attended last year and found it incredibly inspiring and we are excited to be here a second time.
Yeshiva University is the place where I got my undergraduate degree in mathematics and then went on to get my rabbinic ordination.
But YU is a great deal more than a university - it is a movement. Although many of the people at the conference are YU alumni, many participants attended other universities but consider themselves part of the YU community because they believe in the unique values that YU stand for.
As an example, the key not speaker this evening, Professor Tal Ben Shachar, holds a doctorate in psychology from Harvard university, and taught for many years at Harvard. His claim to fame is that at one time his positive psychology class at Harvard attracted as many as 900 students a semester, more than any other course offered at Harvard college. But as a Jew, he finds a home at yeshiva university and he strongly believes in the way that The YU community is capable of being firm in their religious beliefs and practices and yet still able to speak to, make an impact, and influence the greater Jewish and nonjewish world.
He spoke about his specialty, positive psychology and he mentioned that according to the research of others the Orthodox community rates high on a happiness index. He attributes this to the tightness of our community.
The conference runs over Shabbat until Sunday morning and the schedule is packed with speakers, panels, forums, and networking sessions. Each session has at least three options to choose from and they all look great. Miriam and I split up in order to cover as much ground as possible. Then at the meals we share what we learned with each other. (the girls are with a babysitter and having fun by the pool)
The most exciting part of the conference is all of the amazing people that we see between sessions.
Some are old friends, others are people we have met at last years conference and kept in touch with, while others are incredible passionate Jewish professionals and lay leaders.
Just to name a few, today I had a chance to speak with rabbi Steve Burg, the intergalactic head of NCSY and the managing director of the Orthodox union.
I also saw Rabbi Binny Marylis. Binny was my dorm consider when I went to Yeshiva in Israel and today he is the national director of Young Israel, a network of hundreds of synagogues across North America.
I saw my old high school friend, Rabbi Avi Bossewitch. Avi lives in Miami Beach and was recently made the head of academic affairs at the oldest and most established Jewish day school in the state of Florida.
I saw my friend Joel Mowbray. Joel is an investigative journalist and an expert in counter terrorism. I met him through my pro Israel advocacy as he is a sought after speaker and lecturer. A few years ago he became active in the modern orthodox community and he is here s a participant.
I saw Steve Savitsky, past prudent of the Orthodox Union. This summer Beth Israel has two teens who are making us proud by spending the summer in the NCSY kollel in Israel. On their way to Israel they stopped for a night in new York and Steve Savitsky told me he was proud to have hosted them for the evening.
I also got to meet some of the members of my second favorite a capella group - the Maccabeats!!! (My favorite a capella group is A.K.A. Pella - who will be visiting Omaha on September 7th and 8th this year!!!)
And of course, the president of Yeshiva University, Richard Joel, is here. He is a visionary leader and I am inspired every time I hear him speak.
I could go on and on, as everyone here is a dynamic Jewish leader in some capacity.
We are about to daven maariv, which is an event in its won right when hundreds of people daven together.
The conference has just begun and we are already having an incredible inspiring time.
This morning started at 6:15 with a daf yomi class before davening.
Daf yomi is a daily learning program that unifies Jews all over the world. Every day, the global Jewish community learns the same page of Talmud. The program started almost 100 years ago in Europe and has continued until today. There are 2,711 pages in the Talmud and by learning one a day you can finish the entire Talmud in 7 and a half years. This past Wednesday was the final page of the last cycle and on Wednesday night 90,000 Jews gathered in Giants stadium in new York to celebrate the completion of this monumental achievement.
The new cycle just began. We are now at the very beginning. Maybe we should start a daf yomi program to Beth Israel so that we can participate in the celebration next time around.
After davening was breakfast. At breakfast we heard from Jerry Silverman, executive director of the Jewish federations of north America. He was in Omaha earlier this year. But he said that he as in 115 communities throughout north America since he took the job 3 years ago. Wow! Imagine that guys travel blog! Jerry Silverman is a supporter of YU and praised YU and its alumni for their leadership in the global Jewish world and their support for Torah, Judiasm, and the sate of Israel.
Today there are great sessions to choose from before we get ready for shabbat. I am going to "Reshaping your Non-for-profit" and then to a "Attaining a sustainable Jewish educational model in your community." Miriam is going to "Meditation, Mindfulness, and more meaningful prayer." There is also a networking session for Rabbinic couples.
Miriam and I are so fortunate to be here and we hope to learn some great things to bring back to Omaha!