As a result of COVID-19 precautions, many synagogues are creating multiple smaller minyanim for the High Holidays to accommodate their members, creating a shortage of qualified Baalei Tefillot to lead davening. To address this need, the Orthodox Union (OU) Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services has created a “Baal Tefillah Boot Camp” to help train more than 100 to lead these minyanim. To date, more than 36 synagogues from 12 states as well as Canada and South Africa are participating in this historic initiative.

The Baal Tefillah Boot Camp includes a series of seminars to train Shlichei Tzibur at minyanim organized by a synagogue. All of the participants were nominated by their synagogue and will receive a schedule of seminars, recorded Tefillot and will conclude with one-on-one meetings to address individual needs and concerns. The seminars are being led by Chazzan Yitzy Spinner of Great Neck Synagogue, and Rabbi Gedalyah Berger, project coordinator.

Participating synagogues include: BACH Jewish Center (Long Beach, NY), Bais Medrash of Bergenfield (New Jersey), BAYT (Thornhill, ON), Baron Hirsch Synagogue (Memphis, TN), Beit Chaverim Synagogue (Westport, CT), Congregation Beth Abraham (Bergenfield, NJ), Beth Jacob (Beverly Hills, CA), Calabasas Shul (California), Clanton Park Synagogue (Toronto, ON), Congregation Torat Emet (Columbus, OH), Congregation Anshei Shalom (West Hempstead, NY), Congregation Beth Sholom (Lawrence, NY), Congregation Bnai Yeshurun (Teaneck, NJ), Congregation Darchei Noam (Fair Lawn, NJ), Congregation Dor Tikvah (Charleston, SC), Congregation Etz Chaim (Livingston, NJ), Congregation Ohav Sholom (Merrick, NY), Congregation Ohav Zedek (Wilkes-Barre, PA), Congregation Shaarai Torah West (Worcester, MA), Hebrew Institute of White Plains (New York), Kehillat Ohr Tzion (Buffalo, NY), Kesher Israel Congregation (Harrisburg, PA), Ohab Zedek (New York, NY), Park Plaza (Chicago, IL), Pikesville Jewish Congregation (Maryland), Ramath Ora (New York, NY), Rodfei Sholom (San Antonio, TX), Sons of Israel (Brooklyn, NY), Suburban Torah (Livingston, NJ), Umhlanga Jewish Centre (Durban, South Africa), United Orthodox Synagogues (Houston, TX), Washington Heights Congregation (New York, NY), Yavneh Minyan of Flatbush (Brooklyn, NY), Young Israel of Lawrence/Cedarhurst (New York), Young Israel of North Woodmere (New York), and Young Israel of Teaneck (New Jersey).

“The Baal Tefillah Boot Camp was designed to train those new to taking the amud and those who would like some additional coaching to enhance the davening environment of our community during the most holy days of the year. We are very happy that the program has been well received by such a large group of synagogues across the nation and world,” said Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer. “Through this program, the OU is looking to help fill that gap by responding to this important communal need.”

“We have been working with our member synagogues over the last few months to address needs and concerns related to the upcoming High Holidays and one thing that became clear was the need to run more minyanim simultaneously and we needed more Baalei Tefillah in order to do that,” said OU Synagogue & Community Services Director Rabbi Adir Posy. “We created this program with the help of the UJA Federation of New York and the Rabbinical Council of America and are happy to help so many communities.”

The Baal Tefillah Boot Camp is funded in part through a grant by the UJA-Federation of New York and in partnership with the Rabbinical Council of America. For more information or to submit a nomination, visit: https://www.ou.org/chazzan/.

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Orthodox Union
Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union, (OU), serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs. For more information, visit https://www.ou.org/.
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