The Orthodox Union has set a date to pick its next president in highly unusual contested elections.
The umbrella group of Modern Orthodox synagogues and organizations, perhaps best known for running the largest kosher certification operation in the world, announced on Jan. 17 its board will convene at the Sheraton Hotel in New York on March 10 to choose between incumbent Simcha Katz and former president Harvey Blitz.
A source told JTA that a meeting held between Katz and Blitz aimed at settling their differences ended inconclusively on Jan 15.
As previously reported by The Jewish Week and JTA, insiders say the organization has been gripped by a power struggle resulting in a recent succession of managerial changes.
In an email to JTA on Friday, the Orthodox Union took issue with the characterization of its leadership as being in a state of “disarray.”
“The OU is much more than kosher: it is teens, campus life, the disabled, public affairs, synagogue and community services and much more,” said Mayer Fertig, a spokesperson for the group. “Day-to-day operations in all areas are uninterrupted and the kosher division, in particular, is operating effectively under the leadership of its CEO, Rabbi Menachem Genack.”
Katz told JTA last week he would run on a platform of affordable tuition fees and upholding Jewish values, but he did not sound like he was preparing for a fight.
“[Blitz] is a dear and old friend and I hope he actually relieves me of the burden,” he said. “He is a tremendous person and would be a good caretaker for the organization.”
Blitz declined to be interviewed.
Fertig, the OU spokesperson, said the organization’s ability to hold an election with two contenders was proof it provided “an opportunity for an open and candid exchange of ideas and points of view, all for the betterment of Klal Yisrael.”