A Message from Legacy 613 Founder and Director Rabbi Zev Schostak
In my professional career, I had the privilege of serving as both a yeshiva principal and as an elder care chaplain.
As a principal, I bemoaned the fact that there were no published tefillah curricula or programs in yeshiva day schools. What’s more, none of my staff was trained in teaching tefillah. This should not be surprising since overall, Jewish day schools did not offer courses in tefillah education. So sadly, tefillah education was neglected, and still is in most schools.
As a chaplain, I learned how powerful spontaneous, personalized prayer in English can be. When chaplains visit patients by their bedsides, they listen to their personal narratives and compose a personalized MiShebarach (prayer for the sick) reflecting the patients’ unique situations. This approach of spontaneous prayer is one of the most meaningful ways to inspire residents and patients to speak to God. In fact, the Chofetz Chaim, in his commentary on Psalms, urges us to spend some time each day talking to God in our native tongue, above and beyond our daily prayers. How can we better enable our prayers to help us speak to God?
We believe that the reason tefillah is not inspiring for many people is that they don’t understand the meaning of the prayers, and were not taught about them in elementary school and beyond. As students grow older, their prayer becomes a routine activity in which they go through the motions without much emotion. As adults, when many are in a hurry to get to work, minyanim are often rushed, often at the expense of those who need extra time to daven (pray) with more kavanah (focus, intention).
The charge is clear: we must develop effective tefillah curricula and programming to meet the needs of yeshiva elementary and high school students, and introduce adult education programming in synagogues across the country.
Legacy 613’s work with nine yeshiva high schools across the country has made a meaningful difference in their tefillah programming. But there are still many schools who seek this programming and we need to develop effective curricula and online teacher training programs for them. Finally, we must reach out to the rabbinic leadership of our synagogues to help them provide adult tefillah education to their congregants.
This is a huge undertaking, but a vital one for our future and for the next generation. Won’t you join our mission by offering your constructive suggestions and supporting us with a generous donation? We look forward to hearing from you.
Rabbi Zev Schostak
Prior to founding Legacy 613, Rabbi Schostak served as director of pastoral care at the Gurwin Jewish Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Commack, Long Island for nearly 30 years. He also had a distinguished career as a teacher and principal at yeshiva elementary and high schools in New York and Michigan.
Ordained in Jerusalem by Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna, Rosh Yeshiva of Hevron, and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, he also holds an MA from the University of Detroit and has permanent certification as a New York State school administrator and supervisor.
Rabbi Schostak has written extensively on end-of-life bioethics and the issues of aging in halachah (Jewish law). He served as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Medicine in Contemporary Society at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and was honored for his leadership and contributions to professional chaplaincy and Jewish medical ethics as the Rabbinical Council of America’s Healthcare Chaplain of the Year in 2012. His tribute to teachers, a poem titled “In the World of Tomorrow” received national acclaim after its publication in Phi Delta Kappan, a leading educational journal, and American Educator, the quarterly of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).