More than 2,000 people came to Citi Field on Sunday — not to root on the Mets, but to revel in Jewish learning. Thirty-eight scholars led classes on traditional and contemporary Jewish topics at the Orthodox Union’s second annual Torah New York.
The event, which the OU says is the largest of its kind in North America, offered 45 classes along with special programs for high school and college students. Among the topics were Jewish politics, addictions, end-of-life issues, and #MeToo.
Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU executive vice president emeritus, spoke about addiction in Orthodox Jewish communities.
“Five years ago we had a problem with OTD (‘Off The Derech’), today it’s OD (overdose),” said Rabbi Weinreb, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology.
Sivan Rahav Meir, a prominent political reporter for Israel’s Channel 2 News who became Orthodox as a teenager, addressed a session titled Emunah in an Age of New Media, considering how Israel was merging new technologies with age old values.
She spoke about the pleasure of disconnecting from Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms for the Sabbath and quoted Reb Nachman of Breslov who suggested that Jews “take Shabbos into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday” in terms of its aura and values.
Joseph Lieberman, the former U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate, addressed contemporary issues.
“Congress has become more like warring tribes,” he said. “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.”
Lieberman recently co-authored a book with OU Kashrut Division CEO Rabbi Menachem Genack entitled “The Journey, from to Freedom to Matan Torah” which also addressed contemporary issues.
Among rabbis who taught sessions were Hershel Schacter, Mordechai Willig, Dr. Abraham Steinberg, Elazar Muskin, Efrem Goldberg, Yosef Tzvi Rimon, and Eli Mansour. Their tops topics included Jewish Politics (Moral Concerns vs. National Interests); 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 and Justice between Pesach and Shavuos; and the Convergence of Sefardi and Ashkenazi Traditions in Contemporary Israel.
OU 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.
“This event highlighted the rich diversity of the Orthodox community,” said OU 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.”
The event was held in convention space inside the Mets’ nine-year-old stadium in Flushing, Queens.