Did you know that Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who is a Mormon, wears a mezuzah around his neck?
That’s what Rabbi Eric “Yitz” Frank learned during a lobbying trip to Washington D.C. a couple years ago.
Frank, who grew up in Milwaukee, is the Ohio director for Agudath Israel. Agudath is a leadership and policy umbrella organization for observant Jews. That’s why Frank occasionally goes to Washington, D.C.
“[Hatch] was talking about various issues,” recounted Frank. “Then, he commented that he wears a mezuzah around his neck every day!” A 2009 article in The Forward backs up Frank’s anecdote.
When Frank isn’t in D.C., he spends the vast majority of his time in Ohio, where he represents the interests of Orthodox Jews throughout the state. He lives with his wife and three children — ages 10, 8 and 5 — in University Heights, a suburb of Cleveland.
“Most of my work is with Jewish day schools and families,” he said. “But there are many other areas [I work in], including security, end-of-life issues, employment and colleges that I am involved with. We work to ensure families that observe Jewish law are able to participate in society to their fullest.”
Jewish education all the way
Frank is one hundred percent a product of Jewish education. He attended high school at Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Maryland. After that, he studied Talmud at the Rabbinical College of Long Island in New York. He also spent a year in Israel studying Talmud at Yeshiva Ohr Yerushalayim. Then, he returned to the United States and resumed his studies at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey.
Not long after that, Frank moved again, this time to Cleveland, Ohio, where he studied and taught Talmud at Cedar Community Kollel in Beachwood, a suburb of Cleveland. In 2014, Frank was ordained as a rabbi by Rabbi Boruch Hirschfeld.
Where it all began
Frank’s first foray into Jewish learning began at Yeshiva Elementary School, which opened its doors in 1989 on Milwaukee’s West Side. Frank credits Yeshiva Elementary in large part for putting him on the path to his current station in life.
“I had some great teachers and principals,” he said. “The education I received put me on par — or even ahead — of my peers at boarding school in high school and beyond.”
Interestingly, Frank also cites Milwaukee itself as another reason for putting him on his life’s trajectory.
“The level of responsibility that you feel as a Jew in a smallish city like Milwaukee — at least from a Jewish perspective — inculcated in me a sense of responsibility as a representative of the Jewish people. My community in Milwaukee, my parents and Yeshiva Elementary School, gave me that. This feeling of responsibility is with me every moment of my professional role.”
Frank said his job is “ongoing. It is not 9 to 5, even on Shabbos or in shul, because people always have something they need to discuss.”
When asked what his hobbies were, Frank said: “We have three children. They are my hobby.”