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Scholar to ask how Jews can maintain unique identity in networked world

Rabbi Yitzchak Feigenbaum’s resume reads like a Who’s Who of Jewish institutions: first mashgiach and educational director of Aish HaTorah, founder of Darchei Noam/Shapell College of Jewish Studies, author of “Understanding the Talmud.” On top of all that, the Israeli Foreign Ministry sent the rabbi and his wife to the former Soviet Union for a very dangerous mission in the 1970s — to organize clandestine classes in Hebrew and Judaism for refuseniks.

It’s no wonder that Kansas Citians Allan and Rini Gonsher were so intrigued. They heard Rabbi Feigenbaum a few years ago when he was visiting his son, Rabbi Avi Feigenbaum, a member of the Community Kollel of Kansas City, and his family.

“When Rabbi Feigenbaum spoke here, he was on fire!” said Allan Gonsher. “He challenged, motivated, and inspired me — and many others who heard him — to go beyond our current Jewish practices and beliefs.”

So the Gonshers are bringing Rabbi Feigenbaum back to K.C., at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, March 10, at the Jewish Community Campus’ MAC Room, next to the White Theatre. The event is just $5 for brunch and open to the entire Jewish community.

“We’re fortunate to be hosting such an outstanding Torah scholar and unique personality,” added Rabbi Yehudah Sokoloff, head of the KC Kollel.

The lecture is in memory of Charles and Dorothy Gonsher (parents of Kansas Citians Phillip and Allan Gonsher and Geoffrey Gonsher of Phoenix), and Rini Gonsher’s father, Harvey, and brother William Egherman.

“My father was a lifelong Zionist and supporter of Jewish education, not only for his children and himself, but for the whole community,” Rini said. “He and my mother visited Israel for the first time after all three of his children spent considerable time there, studying, vacationing and becoming immersed in Jewish culture.”

She added, “My brother actively supported the University of Florida Hillel, loved classes and being involved in Jewish life. They would have loved to have heard the rabbi’s lecture, so we opened it up to all Jews, in their memory.”

Rabbi Feigenbaum, who will address “Jews: People of the (Face)Book: Maintaining a unique identity in a shrinking cosmopolitan world,” has been educating adolescents and young adults for more than 30 years. Born in Cleveland, he spent many years studying in Israel, and received his smicha from both HaGaon HaRav Beinush Finkel, z”tl, Rosh Yeshivas Mir, Yerushalayim, and Harav Chaim Yaakov Goldsvicht, z”tl, Rosh Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavne — where students combine Judaic studies and service in the Israel Defense Forces.

“Like the KC Kollel rabbis, Rabbi Feigenbaum transcends the ‘denominational divide’ to reach Jews of all different walks of life,” said Rabbi Sokoloff. “He speaks directly to the Jewish soul with a message for every Jew regardless of affiliation or age.”

About the rabbi’s previous visit, Allan added, “He spoke about substantive issues — how to do mitzvahs with greater kavanah (intent), what to learn from the Torah with more passion, and how to live as a Jew in a way that influences the world. It was more than Tikkun Olam, about which we frequently hear. It was exploring one’s Jewish insides to be a Kiddush HaShem (a sanctification of G-d’s name) in the world.”

In 1987, Rabbi Feigenbaum and his family moved to Toronto, where he taught at Yeshivat Or Chaim and Ulpanat Orot High Schools, lectured for Aish HaTorah and Ohr Sameyach, and was a senior lecturer at the prestigious Melton Centre for Jewish Studies. He also served as the scholar-in-residence and educational adviser for NCSY Shabbatonim across North America.

In September 2000, he became principal of Tiferes Bais Yaakov High School for Girls. Over the past two decades, he has lectured extensively in schools, synagogues and universities throughout North America, Israel and the former Soviet Union.

“What a fitting tribute to our parents, who moved to Phoenix with a dream, when there was little Yiddishkeit and a great deal of anti-Semitism,” Allan added, “to raise three boys to be honest, hardworking, Jewish men. My brothers and I all married Jewishly and are actively involved in perpetuating Judaism. This is a testimony to our parents. I would like to provide that same opportunity to inspire other Jews.”

In addition to the Sunday morning brunch, Rabbi Feigenbaum will also speak at Congregation Beth Israel Abraham & Voliner during Shabbos. For more information, contact Rabbi Avi Feigenbaum at 913-230-6448 or Rabbi Binyomin Davis at 913-481-5842, visit www.kckollel.org or the Kollel’s Facebook page at KollelKC.