A crowd of more than 2,500 is expected at Citi Field on Sept. 22, but not for a baseball game. Instead, the indoor space at the home of the Mets will be transformed into a Hebrew school for a day of studying the Torah and addressing the issues facing Jewish people today.
The event is the third annual Torah New York, hosted by the Orthodox Union, the nation’s oldest and largest umbrella organization for the North American Orthodox Jewish community. Founded in 1898, the OU is the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with more than 400 congregations in its synagogue network.
Torah New York was the brainchild of OU President Moishe Bane, a Lawrence resident, and it will include several leading rabbinic scholars, educators and Jewish communal leaders, including three from the Five Towns and Far Rockaway. Topics will include artificial intelligence and Shabbat, repentance and the internet, and forgiving unforgivable sins.
“We came up with Torah New York during my tenure as president primarily as a message to the Jewish community for study of the Torah,” said Bane, an attorney who has led the OU since 2017.
The largest event of its kind in North America, it will offer more than 20 lectures on Jewish law, life and history and the Bible, along with sessions on various aspects of the High Holy Days, including repentance and prayer. Citi Field has more than 200,000 square feet of what is described as “hospitality space” by Metropolitan Hospitality, the company that oversees events at the stadium. It accommodates a variety of events, including conferences.
“I encourage the attendees to identify speakers that they are not familiar with to have the opportunity to gain more Torah insights,” Bane said in explaining how to get the most out of the event, adding that all of the lectures would be audio- and videotaped and made available afterward by the OU. There will also be a screening of a never-before-seen recording of Rabbi Dr. Joseph Soloveitchik teaching one of his famed annual lectures on repentance. Soloveitchik, who died in 1993, was considered a major American Orthodox rabbi, Talmudist and modern Jewish philosopher.
“Torah New York has become the annual Torah learning program unifying our community,” said OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin, who lives in Woodmere. Roughly 90 percent of attendees are from the metropolitan area, Bane said, but they also come from Baltimore, Atlanta, Florida and other places. Several of the speakers live in Israel.
Rabbi Ya’akov Trump, of Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst, will be one of the speakers. “This is an incredible way to engage the broader Jewish community in what really unites it,” Trump said. “The Torah is our pride, our direction and our focus. Being at Citi Field with thousands of Jews is a pretty remarkable experience.”
Trump will discuss a new app that is being tested to add context to the parts of the Torah that are read during the Daf Yomi, a daily regimen of learning the oral Torah and its commentaries in which each of the 2,711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud is covered in sequence. In collaboration with Dr. Henry Abramson, dean of the Lander College of Arts and Sciences in Flatbush, a division of Touro College, the idea behind the app is to make difficult passages easier to understand. “God creates the opportunities for us to grow spiritually,” Bane said of applying 21st century technology to learning more from the Torah.
Rabbi Eytan Feiner, of Congregation Kneseth Israel, the White Shul in Far Rockaway, and Rabbi Dovid Fohrman, of Aleph Beta, a multimedia company, that produces videos on Judaism.
Programming for teenagers, run by the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, includes a Torah Bowl competition, with high schoolers from around the tristate area testing their biblical knowledge, and a children’s program is highlighted by GrowTorah, a shofar factory and a kosher chocolate factory. The NCSY is the Orthodox Union’s international youth movement, and its mission is to connect, empower and inspire Jewish teens and stimulate a passion for Judaism through Torah and tradition.
“Our primary goals,” Bane said, “are for people to leave with a vast appreciation of Torah study, and to explore other areas for a greater Torah experience.”
For more information about Torah New York, or to register, go to www.ou.org/torahny/.