The Rabbis, the Torah, and the Key…



There was not a dry eye in the room when Yitzchak Rapp, made his way to the podium to a standing ovation in order to receive his rabbinic ordination. Yitzchak from Melbourne, Australia is now ready to become the Rabbi he always hoped to be. Words cannot describe the glow on his mother’s face. “It was worth coming all the way from Melbourne for this” said Mrs. Rapp.

This was only one of the many moving moments a crowd of over 250 people were witness to and joyful participants of at the 2nd annual dinner of the Jewish Educational Leadership Institute also known as the Miami Semicha Program. We were hoping to have 150 people come. We are truly overwhelmed by this outpour of support.

Founded is 2002 in Miami Beach by Rabbi Yisroel Frankforter and affiliated with Chabad, the Institute prepares young men to become the future leaders of Israel. “I remember when we started” said Frankforter, “I could fit the entire program, staff included, in my Toyota Echo.” We have come a long way.

Addressing the students and the participants at the dinner Rabbi Frankforter spoke about the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe mentioned the idea of uniting the Jewish people throughout the four corners of the world. The Semicha Program has united the four corners of the world through Torah as its students have come from every continent where a Jewish community can be found, North and South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia.

When students were asked why they would leave New York or come all the way from Australia to study in Miami, they all agreed on one thing. The love and care they receive at the Miami Semicha Program cannot be found anywhere else. According to Isaac Greenbaum (Brooklyn, NY) one of the recent 13 graduates, this is not just a school it is an all around experience. “We reach out to other communities, we visit Jewish inmates, hospitals, old age homes, and so much more” says Greenbaum. Gershon Akerman another graduate says it best “It is not just semicha [rabbinic ordination], it is life…”

The J.E.L.I. does more than just prepare for the future. It also deals with the present. Rabbi Frankforter, a native of Paris, France has been very involved with the newly formed French Jewish community in South Florida. Many Jews have decided to leave France due to the recent wave of unrest.

Arriving to a foreign country, a foreign language and even a foreign religious establishment creates its own sets of challenges. Rabbi Frankforter serves this unique community with all their needs. “We direct people to the proper addresses for working papers, schools, synagogues and communities. At time it is necessary to provide financial assistance as well. The Lubavitcher Rebbe told us to always be prepared to help another Jew in whatever he or she may need. Therefore, what ever it is we are here for them and in their language” says the rabbi.

Last night’s dinner was a living proof of this involvement and of the warm response of this community. The invitations were printed in both English and French, and one of the speeches was given in French by a French student of the Semicha Program. At many of the tables, only French was heard.

The local government has certainly become aware of the great accomplishments of this institution. Present at the dinner was commissioner Simon Cruz from the city of Miami Beach presenting Rabbi Frankforter with a proclamation on behalf of Miami-Dade county. The proclamation declared June 18th 2006, the date of the dinner as the “Jewish Educational Leadership Institute Day”.

Commissioner Luis Garcia presented Rabbi Frankforter with the key to the city of Miami Beach. Rabbi Frankforter accepted the key on behalf of Mr. Yossi Duchman whose Jewish Learning Center hosts the Miami Semicha Program.

Nothing could have topped the feelings of excitement, joy and pride felt by all those in attendance or so they thought. Yet, there was more to come. An anonymous individual had a Torah scroll donated to the Miami Semicha Program. “This is no ordinary Torah” said Rabbi Carro who introduced this most generous gift. “It is a Holocaust Survivor” this Torah came from Warsaw where it survived the Holocaust and is now being donated to the Miami Semicha Program in memory of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and of all the children who perished in the Holocaust and could not get a Jewish education. The graduating rabbis and future teachers of Israel are the living testimony that Am Yisrael Chay the Jewish nation lives on.