June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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Stamford’s BCHA Launches Panim Journal

It was only a year ago that Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy expanded its reach beyond the classroom with the launch of the Center for Community Education (CCE). Created as a vehicle to inspire thoughtful conversation related to the spectrum of important issues facing the Jewish community, CCE brings together local, national and international Jewish educators in an effort to establish Stamford as an educational center for Modern Orthodoxy.

Co-chaired by Stamford Jewish community member and Jewish Link Bronx, Westchester, and Connecticut Community Editor Michael Feldstein and BCHA Head of School Rabbi Tzvi Bernstein, CCE was in part inspired by Machon Siach, the research arm of SAR High School in Riverdale, which was designed to provide faculty fellows the opportunity to bridge theory and practice in Modern Orthodox education.

CCE leaders jumped right into the front-page headlines of last summer, presenting a two-session online forum exploring the topic of race and the Jewish community that featured Yaffy Israel Newman on her personal experience as a Jew of color, and Rabbi Moshe Kletenik, spiritual leader of Minyan Ohr Chadash in Seattle and former Rabbinical Council of America president, on race from the perspective of Torah and Jewish law.

Over the past year, CCE has continued to engage the Jewish community, both local and far-flung, bringing together scholars to discuss theological responses to COVID-19 and to address questions relating to Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah and Tisha B’Av.

With a successful pilot year coming to a close, the committee turned its attention to a new way to reach the community. The brainchild of CCE member David Pitkoff, former chair of the BCHA Board of Trustees, a scholarly journal seemed like a natural next step. The publication would showcase Jewish educators both within and outside the Stamford community and continue to fulfill the CCE mission by sharing relevant information to a Jewish audience. Pitkoff and his wife, Cindy, are sponsors of the inaugural issue.

CCE chose the title Panim, a Hebrew word commonly translated as “faces,” and a reference to the renowned phrase in Bamidbar Rabah, a 12th-century midrash on the Book of Numbers: “Shiv’im panim l’Torah,” or “70 modes of expounding on the Torah.”

The journal is co-edited by Feldstein and fellow CCE members Dr. Jay Jubas and Dr. Joseph Angel, associate professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. Contributors to the inaugural issue comprise a mix of Stamford-area educators and rabbis, including Rabbi Moshe Kurtz, Rachel Haron and Rabbi Joshua Rosenfeld; and educators from outside the community, including Rabbi Dr. Gil Perl, Malka Simkovich, Rabbi Tully Harcszstark, Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg and co-authors Pesha Kletenik and Rachel Loike. Addressing the theme “Confronting Theological and Pedagogical Challenges,” the issue is slated for publication in print and online before Rosh Hashanah. The committee plans to provide copies to all BCHA families and hopes to make the journal available in Stamford-area synagogues.

“We feel there are many valid ways of understanding the Torah—some more simple and some more profound—but all are legitimate methods of studying our sacred texts, if performed in the name of God,” wrote Feldstein in the journal’s introduction. “We also felt that with many of our faces being hidden by masks over the past 18 months, and with our faces now finally emerging, Panim would be a timely name for our journal.”

Panim can also be translated as “facets,” perhaps a more accurate definition and an apt description of modern Jewish life—one the journal aims to take on via its breadth of perspectives.

“Being Jewish in the 21st century is certainly multifaceted and intensely complicated,” Feldstein wrote. “We are a race, a religion, a nationality, an ethnic group, and a culture … but we cannot be defined singularly by any one of these definitions. A better and more accurate way to describe the Jewish people is that we are a family, with the many gifts and the many foibles that are always present in any family. And families, of course, are multifaceted as well.”

Feldstein hopes the journal will prove as successful a promotional tool as CAMOS (the Committee for the Advancement of Modern Orthodoxy in Stamford), an initiative he helped launch in 2009 that has established Stamford as a desirable and vibrant Jewish community for couples and young families looking to relocate.

The longtime Stamford Jewish community booster is most inspired by the small-but-mighty day school that has managed to pull off the publication of a scholarly journal packed with contributions by esteemed Jewish educators.

“We hope this will become an annual publication and that it will help establish BCHA and the Stamford Jewish community as places that take the issues relating to Jewish education seriously,” he said. “We also think that, by publishing this journal, we might attract more Jewish educators to consider working at our school as teachers and administrators—and also convince others to move to our community because of our day school’s commitment to this project.”

For all inquiries about Panim, contact co-editor Michael Feldstein: [email protected].

By Cynthia Mindell

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