The New York Mets were sidelined at Citi Field this weekend as more than 38 internationally renowned scholars led classes on traditional and contemporary Jewish topics to more than 2,000 participants at the Orthodox Union’s (OU) second annual Torah New York.
Torah New York is the largest event of its kind in North America and focused on classes in five main categories: Tanach, Halacha, Hashkafa, Israel (in honor of its 70th birthday) and Rav Y.B. Soloveitchik, z”l (in commemoration of his 25th yahrzheit). In total, there were 45 different classes for participants to choose from, and special programs for high school and college students.
The blue-ribbon list of scholars who taught sessions throughout the day included: Rabbi Hershel Schacter, Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Steinberg, Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rabbi Eli Mansour, Mrs. Sivan Rahav Meir, Rabbi Judah Mischel and Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman. Former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman also delivered a session together with Rabbi Menachem Genack.
Topics included: Jewish Politics – Moral Concerns vs. National Interests; Addictions in Today’s World – Halachic & Hashkafic Perspectives; Quality of Life as a Consideration in Halachic Determination at the End of Life; #MeToo Through the Prism of Megillat Esther; Perfecting or Transcending Humanity – a Debate in Jewish Thought; Liberty & Justice between Pesach and Shavuos; and The Convergence of Sefardi and Ashkenazi Traditions in Contemporary Israel.
“There is a problem in American society with addiction – Opioids and other addictive substances. The Orthodox community has a problem with this too. Five years ago, we had a problem with OTD (“Off The Derech”), today, its OD (overdose),” said Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the OU who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Maryland and who served as a school psychologist in Price Georges County Public Schools and chief psychologist of the Potomac Foundation for Mental Health.
Weinreb spoke for more than an hour about the challenges of addiction in the Jewish community and the Torah’s and sage advice and perspective on how to deal with the challenge.
Sivan Rahav Meir, a well-known political reporter for Israel’s Channel 2 News who has been outspoken about her becoming Orthodox as a teenager, addressed a session on “Emunah [faith] in an Age of New Media.” Her session dealt with Israel being at the forefront of technological advancement and how to merge new technologies with age old values.
She spoke at length at the pleasure of shutting down Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms for the Sabbath and quoted widely from Hassidic leader Reb Nachman of Breslov who suggested Jews “take Shabbos into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday” of the week in terms of its aura and values.
Former U.S. Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman, who just co-authored a book with OU Kashrut Division CEO Rabbi Menachem Genack entitled “The Journey, from to Freedom to Matan Torah,” also addressed some contemporary issues in the news.
“Congress has become more like warring tribes. They have lost sight of common national goals and the Constitution. We may need to have a national crisis to overcome this before we can correct this problem,” he said. “The behavior of public figures has an effect on dialogue and the behavior of others and our political leaders need to understand this.”
Orthodox Union President Moishe Bane said he was thrilled with the record attendance and the commitment to learning in the community. “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,” he 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.”
“This event highlighted the rich diversity of the Orthodox community,” said Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin. “We were thrilled to welcome speakers and guests from near and far, bringing different points of view and new perspectives on the most pressing issues of our time.”