Oorah Makes Legal Headlines

For those of you following the latest happenings in the legal world, specifically in the super-exciting world of tax law, you might have noticed that our very own, beloved Oorah was in the headlines!

But if you were in a cave somewhere and somehow missed this huge piece of news, we’ll try to summarize what happened, and how this development might apply to you.

It all started a long time ago when Oorah acquired the property of 1785 Swarthmore in Lakewood, NJ. Now, instead of owning the property outright, it was decided at the time to form a legal entity called a limited-liability company, or LLC, a fairly standard procedure. They gave the LLC the really clever name of 1785 Swarthmore LLC (not everyone was invited to the meeting where they came up with this – our apologies), and then they transferred the property to this entity.

Now, an LLC has two advantages. One is, as the name implies, the owners have no personal liability for the company. So, if the LLC ends up owing a lot of money, the owners are not personally liable for the debt.

The second advantage is really cool, and seems like something straight out of a science fiction novel. When it comes to taxes – make sure you’re sitting down – the LLC is invisible. Yes, you read that correctly. As far as tax law goes, the LLC is a disregarded entity, meaning, essentially, that the IRS cannot see 1785 Swarthmore LLC!

The owner of the LLC is visible, and that’s who pays the taxes. However, only the owner is taxed for the LLC’s income. As far as the IRS is concerned, the LLC doesn’t exist. (Unfortunately, that seems to be as far as it goes with the invisibility thing. But it’s still cool!)

Back to our story. Despite this legal setup, the taxman cometh anyway. The township of Lakewood wanted Oorah to pay property taxes for the site.

Oorah’s talented attorneys immediately replied that Oorah is a non-profit enterprise, and the property, which was being leased to the Lakewood Cheder School, was being used for a tax-exempt purpose. According to the law, this would exempt the property from taxes.

Yes, answered the township. But Oorah doesn’t own the property. 1785 Swarthmore LLC does!

Oorah countered that it is the owner of 1785 Swarthmore LLC. In fact, 1785 Swarthmore LLC is invisible, so the only owner of the property that can be seen is Oorah.

While the court appreciated the feat of making 1785 invisible, it ruled that it was invisible only to the IRS.  But as far as everyone else was concerned, especially the township, 1785 was in plain sight, and is seen as the owner of the property.

Oorah good-naturedly conceded the case, and Oorah’s legal advisor, Ben Turin, even admitted learning something from the ordeal!

So what can we learn from this story? It boils down to this: if you run a not-for-profit enterprise, don’t assume that any LLCs your non-profit controls will be considered non-profit by the government! So any schools, synagogues, and the like should consult competent legal advisers before putting any properties in an LLC.

TL;DR Oorah lost its tax exemption on a property it owned, despite being a nonprofit and using the building for nonprofit use, because of a legal technicality.

Oorah’s “Ask the Rabbi”

Once a week, the founder and spiritual leader of Oorah, Rabbi Chaim Mintz, gives a class on Jewish topics at Oorah. As part of the class he fields questions presented by the audience or sent via email on all Judaism related topics. We present a synopsis of a question and answer in last week’s class.

In Judaism, the most special, sacred day of the year comes around every week. We’re talking of course about Shabbat, the Sabbath.

On Shabbat, we sanctify the day in many ways. We have Shabbat meals, say Shabbat prayers, and sing Shabbat songs.

Being a day of rest, we also abstain from “work” which is defined as 39 specific activities, obviously a bit much to elaborate on here! Included among the forbidden categories of work is turning lights on and off, and this includes operating any sort of electronic device.

However, there’s no problem in turning something on before Shabbat and leaving it on until the end of Shabbat.

The questioner wanted to know if it was permitted to set a timer on a television before Shabbat and be able to watch the World Series.

Rabbi Mintz’s answer was that the issue is nuanced. Technically, there is no prohibition in doing so, since no forbidden activity is involved.

But, Shabbat is so much more than the “do nots”. We have to treat Shabbat as the most special day that it is. Since it is so holy, we can’t treat it as just another day, just part of the “weekend”. Therefore, we also are commanded to focus our speech and even our thoughts on the sanctity of the day. This means that we abstain from everyday activities. By focusing on special activities like going to the synagogue, singing Shabbat songs, and studying Torah, we can feel the sanctity of Shabbat.

In this respect then, it would not be advisable to watch an athletic event on television on Shabbat. Even though one is technically not violating any laws of Shabbat by doing so, he is simply missing the whole point!

Oorah Receives Gift of 20 Paintings From the Artist

Recently, Oorah was the recipient of an unusual gift: a collection of some 20 paintings. These painting were donated by the artist Barbara Green of Catskill, New York.

The paintings are done in Mrs. Green’s unique style, focusing on two historical themes: the Spanish Inquisition and Biblical figures. Typically, the painting features a portrait of an historical figure, with symbolic clues as to what the painting is telling us.


Queen Isabella of Spain

Barbara paints professionally, and mainly does commissioned portraits. She also did a series on boxer portraits – as in the pugilist sport. These paintings are quite popular, and one is even hanging in the home of the famous boxer, Mike Tyson!

But her husband Gene, also an artist, was a college art teacher who also volunteered in local prisons. When he began teaching inmates about the Holocaust, Barbara created ten posters on the subject.


King Ferdinand

They also brought paintings to the junior college where Gene worked. In order to “bait” the students to view the pictures, Barbara painted circus themed paintings as a metaphor for the Holocaust. Gene actually overheard one student telling another, “Let’s go see the circus paintings!”

The paintings went on display in several locations, including a six-month stint in Glen Cove, NY.

Then Barbara, always a reader, came across the term “Marrano.” This spurred her to start researching the Spanish Inquisition, and eventually her Spanish Inquisition series was born.


5252 is the date of the Spanish Expulsion on the Jewish calendar.

When they showed slides of her work to Hebrew Union College, the college told them it was the perfect time, as they were having an exhibit on the 500th anniversary of the Spanish expulsion in 1492. She thus found a forum where her series would be able to be widely viewed.


When asked about her influences, Barbara cites mainly late 19th century American artists, like John Singer Sargent and Thomas Eakins. Being a realistic painter, she also points to classic painters such as Rembrandt and Caravaggio.

After starting to study with a TorahMate from Oorah, her painting changed in small but significant ways.

“Oorah has changed the way I think. It really gave me a new point of view,” Barbara says.

Barbara’s recent donation of 20 paintings was her way of thanking Oorah for adding so much to her life. Oorah is very grateful in turn to Barbara Green for enriching us with her participation in the TorahMates program and for her beautiful paintings!

A Vow Twice Kept

A Vow Twice KeptOur senior account specialist was hard at work calling sponsors past to see if they’d be willing to help sponsor Oorah’s upcoming 2016 auction. She reached one fellow, made her request, and received an unexpected response: He’d be happy to help sponsor this coming Oorah auction, but not until he keeps the neder he made to someone in the Oorah office, this past June.

Now, in case you don’t know, a neder is a vow. And it’s serious stuff. If you make a neder, there’s no getting out of it.

That’s why, most of the time, when people make promises, they end the promise with the words: bli neder, to specify that they’re not making a vow. They do that because you never know what’s going to happen in the future and who knows—maybe something will come up to keep you from keeping that vow. It’s better to be on the safe side and say that your promise is not to be understood as an actual neder.

But this neder, the one this anonymous Oorah sponsor made, was an important one. His father, you see, had been in Auschwitz. Not only was he in Auschwitz, but he was there from the very beginning of the Holocaust.

Arbeit Macht Frei

It is an absolute miracle that any Jew survived the Hell that was Auschwitz, with its starvation diet, rampant disease, hard labor, and torture. But to think that someone survived all that for years on end, is a miracle beyond all miracles.

After Liberation, this man’s father found he was the only person in his family to have survived the war. Moreover, he discovered, the entire Jewish population of the town he came from in Poland, had been completely wiped out. Eviscerated.

He was the sole survivor of his family and of his town. And he was a miracle. As the sole representative of his line and of his town, he remained absolutely and completely frum. Hitler, may his name and memory be erased (yemach shmo) would not have the victory of robbing this Jew of his faith. He had survived for a reason and would not stain the name of his family or the town he came from by leaving his faith by the wayside.

He stayed frum and he was lucky enough to have a son. This son, too, was a faithful Yid, a frum Jew all his life, like his father, and the only frum male to represent his line. This was the sponsor who made the neder, the sponsor our senior account specialist had phoned.  He’d made a neder to Oorah that if any grandsons are born to him, he will give Oorah money to pay for a bris (circumcision) ceremony for an Oorah family.

Bris Mila

And yes! The man was blessed with a grandson last June. Thrilled with this blessing, this continuation of his line, a line of faithful Yidden, they and their faith surviving even through the brimstone of the Holocaust, he called Oorah and arranged to pay for one bris for one Oorah family.

Just as he’d promised.

He’d kept the neder.

Or so he’d thought.

But as it turns out, he wasn’t done yet. Something happened. He received another gift from Hashem, the gift of a second grandson, against all odds. Another miracle.


As such, the man came to the conclusion that he had not yet fulfilled his neder! He’d vowed to pay for the bris of an Oorah family if only he’d have a grandson and you see, it had happened AGAIN, when he’d thought it never would, the first time around.

How happy he was to continue his line, to have more frum males in the family, and so he asked if he might pay for another bris for another Oorah family.

The only caveat? That Oorah makes sure the Oorah representative he spoke to last June is informed that the neder has been kept. “Now that we’ve taken care of that,” he told the senior account specialist, “We can talk about me sponsoring Oorah’s 2016 auction.”

That is what he said, at any rate, and we, those of us at Oorah, would tend to believe him.

Being that he is a man who keeps his word.

Livin’ In A Booth

TrampolineFour hundred lucky people got to experience the first Sukkos Yomim Tovim at TheZone, Oorah’s gorgeous facilities in the Catskill Mountains, and a further six hundred arrived for the second set of Yomim Tovim. Staying in cozy hotel-style accommodations may not be quite the same thing as wandering in the desert with the Ananei HaKovod overhead, but none of the attendants were complaining (especially when it rained)!

The special quality of the holiday was amplified by the intensive preparations Oorah’s event planner, Mrs. Shayndy Abrahamson, and by all the volunteers who worked so hard to bring a fun and lively ruach to the clean mountain air, the air of Sukkos, Chag LaShem.

Running Girls

By all accounts, Sukkos at TheZone was a rip-roaring success. The feedback is still pouring into Mrs. Abrahamson’s inbox. Here’s a sample of feedback from those attending the first days of Sukkos at TheZone (all photos from Chol HaMoed):

Y: I wanted to thank you for a wonderful experience at the Zone.  It was truly a rewarding experience spending Sukkot at TheZone.  We are grateful that we were able to partake in such a lovely gathering.

S: We all loved TheZone, despite the rain! E. and I enjoyed the lectures,  the magical Yom Tov atmosphere,  and learning from so many amazing people we met!

The kids loved the huge Sukkah, the freedom of running around free, petting the bunnies, and the loud communal singing during meals!

We cannot wait to return whenever we are invited back to TheZone!

Thank you, Oorah for this amazing opportunity!

Lama Lo

V: The Succah is magnificent and the ambience uplifting. The food is plentiful and the accommodations impressive. The program is enjoyable for adults and children alike. No detail is overlooked and each specific element is calibrated to ensure a delightful Yom Tov for each and every guest.

R: Thanks a lot for sponsoring us to the recent yom tov event and for sending me 4 minim set free of charge which I am very grateful for. Although I cannot pay you back in dollars and cents for your kindness, I would like to give the following feedback since I cannot pay you back at this point in [any] other way:

  • Amazing hotel campgrounds plus the free activities (boats, horses, bikes, trails) provided almost a 5 star hotel experience and all for free. Truly outstanding!!!
  • My 9 year-old son enjoyed the dinnertime quiz event and prizes event.
  • Re the vorts during the meal, I liked the one by the clean shaven guy that helps run the TorahMate program (don’t remember his name) that tried to explain the mission of Oorah in this event, which was a question on many people’s minds.
  • My wife enjoyed the weekend very much, firstly because it gave her a much needed physical rest, and secondly it was a meaningful peek for her into the American haredi world which she has never really seen, since she is only familiar with the national religious world in Israel where she became religious some 20 years ago.
  • Nine year-old son H. definitely enjoyed the activities and freedom to run and play unsupervised and engage in all the fun activities that your ample and well stocked grounds provide.
  • Sixteen year-old daughter A., [found it] an opportunity to reconnect with her mom and brother in a pleasant setting, and [it was] a peek for her into the American haredi world which she has never seen, since she is only familiar with the national religious world in Israel where she grew up.


Here’s a sample of feedback from those attending the final days of the Yomim Tovim at TheZone:

E: Thank you so very much.
My children and I enjoyed it very much.
It was our first time joining Oorah and the holidays in TheZone.
Every part of it was great and enjoyable.

I didn’t get a chance to come and introduce myself and family.

But did want to thank you for the wonderful chag!

Tefillin Help

K: Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to spend such a great chag at TheZone! We enjoyed every single second of it. From the shaking of the very floor of the shul, to the untimely, but delicious meals, the chag was simply amazing. The speeches and programs has created sparks of inspiration in our hearts, and this kind of inspiration stays with us throughout the year. We have never met such kind and selfless people who have such a  passion to give, and who give everything they can when they do! Once again, Oorah has proven the statement, “It’s more than a camp” correct. TheZone is a camp, a home, and a direct road to inspiration. Thank you so much for everything!

M: This was a wonderful program. I never saw hakafot like yesterday. I was inspired by the custom you held of leaving the candles in the Aron while the Torahs were removed for hakafot. I had the opportunity to discuss this with Rabbi and Mrs. Kleinman.


Thank you again for all that you do to make sure these programs run smoothly.

K: Thank you for having us.  I was hooked up with a great TorahMate person.  Having Oorah in our life is a blessing.

Overhead Kids


Health And Hashem


Hiking shoesLori Zadikow May was walking before work that summer in 1992. She was a counselor at a summer camp focused on science and hiking. Rabbi Chaim Mintz was also walking. He was walking and talking with a bochur from the Yeshiva of Staten Island, just taking a walk in the country.

Lori had this habit of giving out music CD’s she liked to friends or even random strangers. She’d given one such CD to a Jewish friend and wanting to repay the kindness, he handed Lori one of his own music discs. When she got home, she found it was a disc of Jewish music. While Lori loves Jewish music, she wasn’t crazy about the music on this particular disk. Lori stuck the disc in her bag thinking she’d find someone to pass it on to: someone who would be more likely to appreciate that particular disc of Jewish music.

Giving music CD

So there she was, Lori, walking before work, when she saw Rabbi Chaim Mintz and his bachur. She could see they were Jewish because of their manner of dress and so acting on impulse, she drew out the music disc from her bag, held it out to R. Mintz and said, “This isn’t for me. Maybe it’s for you?”

“Maybe. But maybe I have a disc of Jewish music that would better suit you. he said. “Why not give me your mailing address so I can send it to you?”

And of course, Rabbi Chaim would not rest until he got Lori’s contact info so he could not just send her a music disc, but also invite her to his home for Shabbos.

And so, the gradual relationship between Lori and Oorah began.

Today, Lori leads hiking groups, and advises hikers to look for the wonders in nature that Hashem has created. She’s also a nutritional counselor who urges people to look for the cures Hashem has already provided them before turning to doctors. Apparently, Lori is pretty good at what she does, for doctors and nurses are among her clients.

Recently, Lori sent the following note around and it gives the very real flavor of her connection to Hashem. We thought to share it here for the sake of inspiration.  Feel free to pass it on to others, who might learn from Lori Zadikow May’s special brand of wisdom.

Healing is at least 97% from Hashem.

Doctors “practice” medicine. They try one thing and another. They intelligently repeat techniques and remedies which have worked for people with symptoms and conditions, highly similar to the ones of the patients, whom they are trying to help right now. The best doctors know, they have frustrating limits. Many try to set aside times, to increase their skills and knowledge. Some strive to keep a rare open mind, to seek out a wide range of responsible conventional as well as unconventional treatment options. They look at things which have worked in other lands. They look at “double-blind” studies involving more than a few people. Till double-blind studies have been carried out to their conclusions, at the end of a set period of time, neither the doctors nor the patients in the study will know, who was getting placebos ( placebos= harmless, totally ineffective, real-looking pills) and who was getting something truly to be tested out,… something with the potential to do great good or unexpected harm.

These test substances sometimes include safe, natural plants, given by Heaven to man, for medicine. More often, the substances tested, are new chemical combinations from a laboratory.  These are discovered mostly by research chemists, employed often by pharmaceutical companies or universities. Sometimes they’re discovered by  doctors and other thinking people, following up on a hunch whose inspiration came to them, in an unexpected way. It dawned on them, that something important was related to something else, in a way never earlier recognized. They cannot account for that Heaven-sent moment of insight, when they paused in their breathing, as goose-bumps came out on their arms. Out of mists of wondering, came spine-chilling clarity.

Oorah, Kiruv, the country

One of the courses of treatment, which is best, for an individual patient, hopefully is the one picked. These are not the treatments which would work most effectively for that patient’s father, or son, or sister, but for this one individual, with  unique personal health history and patterns of life.

Nothing is accomplished, without the hugest part of the help coming from Hashem.

I also suspect, that atheists turn to Hashem, in their times of greatest concern for the recovery of loved ones, or to despairingly pray themselves out of immediate danger. Too soon, they fall back on the unnecessary loneliness of self-reliance. Embarassed by their temporary inconsistency, in reaching upward toward The Source of Goodness, The Healer for Whose Help they have anxiously appealed, they return to scoffing about religious beliefs. They forget evidence they have themselves experienced, that there is sometimes Help, far bigger and better than what people alone can do.

The surgeon operates, we pray, with great success. Hopefully he or she knows, that hands and mind have been blessed with gifts, which logic cannot fully explain. The day-by-day healing which follows operations and illnesses, is primarily from Hashem. Nurses change bandages and apply ointments to prevent infections, and to soothe pain. The healing underneath, comes from Hashem. Doctors put on casts to protect and to keep straight, bones which became broken and then were reset. The healing underneath, comes from Hashem. The doctors count on it, but cannot fully understand it.Healing Herbs

Every decade, confident doctors speak with certainty, claiming it’s been proven, that today we have the fullest knowledge and the most advanced ways of doing medical things. A short decade later, the same doctors will look back and talk about how primitive, unnecessarily harsh, and incomplete, was medical understanding, ten years ago. Therefore, it’s always too early, to rule out sense-making, tested-on-people, but unconventional approaches to regaining health.

Hashem doesn’t need to “practice” medicine. He doesn’t need to have played scales on a piano, in order to help a composer create a musical masterpiece, which stirs the deepest emotions of mankind. Hashem’s knowledge is limitless. Hashem hears the prayers of the caring internist, worried about what has been discovered in the examination room. He hears the silent prayers of the surgeon in the operating room.

Often Hashem answers “yes”. Sadly, for the patient and for those who love him or her, sometimes the answer is “no.”  The “no’s” can be agonizingly hard to  accept.

Hashem says yes

Sometimes a patient is being prevented from experiencing something even worse.

Or it can be, that a person is triumphing over obstacles which feel so avalanche-large, that in their shadows, it’s difficult to keep balance on the  uneven paths ahead. All along the down-and-up ways we have come, and the way we are going, we hope to develop increasingly better character traits. So it may be, with a patient who is struggling against an illness. Though we cannot see why they have to go through so much, they may be earning greatness of  character, and its enduring reward that is worth it all, in the World to Come. We cannot see ahead, beyond a certain point.

Don’t we each know of someone, who has healed well, and has long outlived all the doctors’ predictions? Hashem’s help is stronger than all else. We know He is pleased by many things we can accomplish. These include: our gratitude; our awe of Heaven; our good deeds; our sincere prayers; kindness; our charitable contributions which protect the dignity of those whose needs are greater than our own; our active commitment to justice; our love for our families and friends;  for increasing His Honor, the use of the talents he has given us; our striving to bring peace within and between our communities . Many of our greatest say, “and Torah-learning is equal to them all”.

When a masterpiece of art or of healing becomes beautifully complete, there is Ruach beyond our understanding. Ruach blows into the sails that make sailboats go. Even now, as I am writing, Hashem is helping me find the words, to say to you, what you already know.

Health and Hashem

From a Thankful Parent

I would like to humbly thank those making the decision to have granted {our daughter} a scholarship the last three years. My husband and I have watched our daughter blossom into a fine young Jewish woman with the morals and priorities any parent could ask for. She is a sponge to Torah learning and loves her life as a …. student. She participates in religious and secular and extra-curricular activities and we couldn’t be more proud. The friends she has chose are of the same cloth and she is now immersed in a world of Torah life. We are very grateful to Oorah because if not for Oorah’s financial help we would not be close to being able to afford the very costly tuition of Jewish high school. {She} is a child/young lady who is growing in her Yiddishkeit with every fiber of her body and soul………… We each continue to learn and it has all been so wonderful for our family as a whole.