Who would have thought that Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, could become a “makom Torah,” a place of Torah learning, for Jews from all walks of life?
The brainchild of Moishe Bane, president of the Orthodox Union (OU), the inaugural “Torah New York” at the Citi Field Convention Center took place in January 2017 and drew about 1,500 participants. Last month, the second "Torah New York" had over 2,000 registered attendees and brought together an amazing cross-section of the East Coast Jewish community, men and women, young and old, from dozens of communities and neighborhoods from Boston to Baltimore.
The aim of the day was to focus on what unites us as a Jewish people, instead of what separates us, said Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the OU. Torah learning is our inheritance, and is something in which all of the Jewish people can participate, he said.
A vast array of well-known, distinguished Torah scholars, master teachers, and respected speakers came from far and near, including Israel, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. Some of the 38 renowned speakers included: Charlie Harary, former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Rabbi Moshe Bamberger, Maryland resident Lori Palatnik, Rabbi Menachem Genack, Rabbi Dr. Shnayer Leiman, Esther Wein, and Rabbi Mordechai Willig. Themes for the 45 sessions included halacha (Jewish law), hashkafa (Jewish thought), Tanach (Biblical texts), and special talks surrounding the 70 years of independence of the State of Israel, as well as the legacy of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l, in honor of the Rav’s 25th yahrzeit (anniversary of his passing).
Among the attendees were college students who participate in the OU’s Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (OU-JLIC) programs, as well as high school students who came to compete in the Torah Bowl competitions. NCSY participants came from both public schools and yeshivas. A singles event run by YUConnects was held in the evening in conjunction with the event.
Jewish learning could be witnessed everywhere — even in the elevator, where one of the attendees inquired of another the meaning behind the kippah he wore.
This day was truly an inspiration in preparation for the holiday of Shavuout, an appropriate time to join together with unity to express our dedication to Torah. How apropos that this day of learning actually took place on Pesach Sheni, a day that commemorates bringing a new halacha (law) down from shamayim (the heavens) for the people who, through no fault of their own, were not able to bring the Korban Pesach (the Pascal lamb) at its proper time. Because of their strong desire to fulfill the mitzvah (commandment), they were granted the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah at a later date. May this day of learning serve as a merit for klal Yisrael (all of Israel) as we prepare to receive the Torah anew on the upcoming chag (holiday).
By Dr. Ilana Goldschein