Orthodox Rabbi Kenneth Brander is the inaugural Dean of Yeshiva University, Center for the Jewish Future (CJF). Rabbi Brander is also the Rabbi Emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue, founding dean of the Boca Raton Community Kollel, and founder of the Weinbaum Yeshiva High School of Broward and Palm Beach Counties. During his 14 years of service to that community, he oversaw its explosive growth from 60 families to some 600 families.
Click here to read moreThere are several reasons why people decide to become part of an Orthodox community:
These are often a combination of practical and philosophical reasons:
People may become involved in the Orthodox community because they send their child(ren) to a Jewish day school, even though they live a non observant lifestyle. Once their child begins to study, they feel compelled to start learning how to read Hebrew so they can understand the child’s homework or they begin to study Chumash so that they can keep up with their child. They may start attending synagogue so their children can interact with their friends. They begin by becoming socially orthodox.
I remember one particular experience, when my eldest, Tuvia was in kindergarten. He became friends with another boy and they had regular play dates together (my wife had joined forces with a friend in the Conservative community to write “the Emily Post handbook” on making everyone comfortable around kashrut and religious standards at birthday parties and playdates) At one point, the friend turned to his parents and said that he wanted to wear tzitzit like his friend Tuvia. Eventually, that family koshered their home. The two boys, now young men, are still close. He and his family not only keep a strictly kosher home but they are all serious bnei Torah and are true lights for our people.
In the Boca Raton community, there were more that sixty families that were slowly drawn to an Orthodox life style because of the openness of the community and the purpose it gave their lives. This renaissance watching the unaffiliated grow overtly in their spirituality empowers the FFB (frum from birth) community. It causes those in the Orthodox community to revaluate their religious observance – moving from robotic mechanical practices to actions which celebrate a rendezvous with God and a responsibility to influence society around us.
I have had the privilege of watching accomplished doctors, lawyers, and business people engage in a metamorphosis from driving on Shabbat, eating at the finest non-kosher restaurants, to embracing a lifestyle which was previously unfamiliar to them. I have watched as they sat in synagogue struggling to keep up, worked to find precious time to learn Hebrew and study Torah and ultimately become pillars of the community. One very prominent physician, over a period of ten years moved from not being able to read Hebrew to receiving semicha from the Rabbanut in Israel and Rav Zalman Nechamyah Goldberg. Another prominent businessman and his wife moved from sending their children to the fanciest of Christian prep schools to engaging in Torah study with the Rabbis of the community. They then sent their children to the Yeshiva day school, becoming community leaders. During their spiritual journey, they bought an RV to park in the shul parking lot for Shabbat where they stayed with their family, eventually bought a Shabbat home, sold their weekday fancy home to move close to the synagogue, and most recently made aliyah. They may view me as their teacher, but in all candor, I am the student who has watched and benefited from how they and so many were willing to sacrifice to find true meaning in life.