If you’re interested in an Orthodox perspective on Jewish politics, liberty and justice, addiction, end-of-life issues, or the #MeToo movement as seen through the prism of Megillat Esther, you’re in luck.
Prominent scholars — several of them from northern New Jersey — will explore these and 20 more topics at the Orthodox Union’s second annual Torah New York gathering, set for Sunday, April 29, at Citi Field in Queens. Torah New York, which is expected to draw more than 2,000 men, women, and teenagers, is billed as the largest event of its kind in North America.
The schedule features 25 lectures in five main categories: Bible, law, “hashkafa” (practical philosophy), the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, and the 25th yahrzheit of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the principal shaper of modern (or centrist) Orthodox Judaism in 20th-century America.
“This is not a political event or a fundraiser, just an opportunity to spend a day learning Torah with several thousand others,” Rabbi Yosef Adler said. Rabbi Adler has been the spiritual leader of Teaneck´s Congregation Rinat Yisrael since 1979, and he also has headed Torah Academy of Bergen County, the high school for boys in Teaneck, since 1990.
“It’s heartwarming and gratifying to see so many people willing to take a day to get together for learning purposes,” he added.
Rabbi Adler’s talk, “The Chosen City: Jerusalem the Heart of Judaism,” is one of the concurrent lectures on Israel from which attendees may choose. “I want to focus on the centrality of Jerusalem and demonstrate that certain aspects of the city, especially in relation to the Sanhedrin — the high court of justice that sat on the Temple Mount — play a major role as representatives of the entire people,” Rabbi Adler said.
In another session, former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman will conduct a conversation with Rabbi Menachem Genack of Englewood about Mr. Lieberman’s new book, “With Liberty and Justice: The Fifty-Day Journey from Egypt to Sinai,” co-authored with Rabbi Ari D. Kahn and published by the Maggid imprint of Koren Publishers and the OU Press.
Rabbi Genack is the general editor of the OU Press, the CEO of the OU Kosher Division since 1980, and the spiritual leader of Englewood’s Congregation Shomrei Emunah since 1985. He and Mr. Lieberman have studied Torah together by phone every Friday for about 25 years.
“With Liberty and Justice” presents 50 short essays on the interplay of law and liberty in Jewish life, drawing on the Bible and rabbinic literature, U.S. politics and modern legal theory, Jewish humor and American folklore. “Our conversation is entitled ‘The Journey from Freedom to Matan Torah,’” Rabbi Genack said. “Matan Torah” is the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, marked by the holiday of Shavuot 50 days after Passover.
“This is a journey Joe Lieberman himself took in his career as a senator and in his fight for civil rights; he was at the march where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech. His whole life is represented, in a sense, by this book,” he continued.
Because Shavuot is the most obscure and least observed and understood of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals, Rabbi Genack added, Mr. Lieberman aims to have people engage in it by reading these essays and learning more about the meaning of each of the Ten Commandments, the foundation in which Jewish and American law are rooted.
Rabbi Dr. Jeremy Wieder of Teaneck, rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, also will speak at Torah New York. He will lecture on “Halachic Views of ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’ in Cases of Abuse.”
Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger of Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield will talk about the danger of discord. Rabbi Neuburger heads the Yeshiva Program/Mazer School of Talmudic Studies, an undergraduate school for Talmudic studies at Yeshiva University.
Alongside the main program, a session for teenagers sponsored by NCSY, the OU’s youth movement, will feature discussions and a Torah trivia game.
Teaneck native Rabbi Noam Friedman will lead a networking event for college students sponsored by the OU’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus. A dinner and social event in partnership with YUConnects for singles is to be highlighted by a talk from Rabbi Steven Weil of Teaneck, the OU’s senior managing director.
According to the OU — the nation’s oldest and largest umbrella organization for the North American Orthodox Jewish community — the day will include sessions appropriate for people of all backgrounds and Jewish literacy levels.
Some of the other scholars teaching at Torah New York include Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Steinberg, Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, Rabbi Eli Mansour, Lori Palatnik, Shira Boshnack, Michal Horowitz and Dr. Adina Shmidman, all from the United States. Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rabbi Gideon Weitzman, Rabbi Judah Mischel, and Sivan Rahav Meir all will come from Israel to be at Torah New York.
“Learning Torah has always defined and shaped our community, giving meaning and context to everything from how we pray to how we conduct our business affairs, to how we interact with our family and with society at large,” the Orthodox Union’s President Moishe Bane said. “What better way to shine a beacon on the importance of Torah study than by coming together as a community to hear from some of the world’s leading Jewish teachers, all in one place.”
What: Torah New York, sponsored by the Orthodox Union
When: April 29, 8:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. The day begins with two Daf Yomi (daily Talmud study) sessions, followed by hour-long concurrent lectures beginning at 10:15 a.m.
Where: Indoors at Citi Field in Queens. Free parking is available.
How much: $50; food is not included but will be available to buy from concessionaires from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m.
More information and registration: Go to www.ou.org/torahny