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Steinsaltz’s Talmud translation to be centerpiece of Global Day of Jewish Learning

North Jerseyans to take part in Global Day of Learning

 
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Four North Jersey venues will join Jewish communities around the world in offering free programming on Nov. 7, the Global Day of Jewish Learning. This first-ever worldwide, trans/non-denominational program is planned to coincide with the culmination of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s 45-year project to translate the voluminous Talmud from ancient Aramaic folios into modern punctuated Hebrew. The event also falls on the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s annual Mitzvah Day.

At about 2 p.m., Steinsaltz is scheduled to pen the final words of his monumental work in a live telecast from Jerusalem. A champion for open access to Jewish learning, he is widely credited with making talmudic study available to the masses, as his translation is being prepared for publication in French, Russian, English, and Spanish.

“Jewish learning should straddle denominational lines,” said Ilan Kaufthal of Englewood, worldwide chairman of the event. “I am encouraged and gratified to see the amount of participation we’re getting in North Jersey across those lines.”

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Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Activities will include a 1 p.m. talk titled “I’ll have the Meatloaf — the Meaning and Significance of Jewish Prayer,” by Rabbi Akiva Block of Kesher Community Synagogue in Tenafly at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, and sessions at the Frisch School in Paramus by Rabbi Eli Ciner on “Faith and Naturalism” and by Dr. Shira Weiss on “Are There Obligatory Beliefs in Judaism?” from 1 to 2 p.m. Both venues will screen the webcast afterward.

The PJ Library, a Jewish literacy project for children, will sponsor storytelling at the Solomon Schechter Day School in New Milford (2 to 3 p.m.) and the YM-YWHA of North Jersey in Wayne (10:30 to 11:15 a.m.). According to coordinator Linda Ripps, children will listen to a reading of “Bone Button Borscht” by Aubrey Davis — a Jewish version of the classic story “Stone Soup” — and then decorate tote bags to bring to the supermarket and fill with items for a food bank.

The global day of learning will also be the subject of a workshop at UJA-NNJ’s Jewish Educational Services’ Fall Professional Development Day for congregational school educators. And for those who cannot make it to any of the venues, there will be web-based classes available at http://www.1people1day.org.

Mumbai, Havana, Detroit, Miami, Bratislava, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, Washington, Moscow, and Los Angeles are among the cities hosting parallel programs on Nov. 7. More than 50 communities in the former Soviet Union also are participating.

“This is a truly historic achievement, which is why so many diverse Jewish communities from every corner of the world are excited to be involved.” said Kaufthal. “Anything that can be done to promote unity in the Jewish community, especially around Jewish education, is important to try to achieve on local, national, and international levels.”

Steinsaltz is a scholar, teacher, mystic, and social critic who has written some 60 books and hundreds of articles on the Talmud, kabbalah, and chasidism. His works have been translated into English, Russian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese. Born in 1937 in Jerusalem to a secular family, he became Israel’s youngest high school principal at the age of 23 and has established educational networks in Israel and the former Soviet Union.

“The Talmud belongs to all Jews, and not just a special sect or elite group,” said Steinsaltz, who also uses the surname Even-Yisrael (Rock of Israel). “Through the power of these translations and the power of modern technology, we are awakening Jews to their shared heritage.”

The Global Day of Jewish Learning is sponsored by Steinsaltz’s Aleph Society, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Community Center Association, Jewish Education Service of North America, Jewish Federations of North America (including UJA-NNJ), Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, and the Shefa Institute. Supporting partners include the governing bodies, leadership, and ordaining institutions of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist movements of Judaism. See www.TheGlobalDay.com for further details and a full list of partners.

 
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A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

The converso’s dilemma

Local group goes to New Mexico to learn about crypto-Jews

Imagine that you were raised as a Catholic. Then one day — perhaps as a beloved parent or grandparent lay dying and leaned over to whisper something in your ear — you learned that your family once was Jewish. Your ancestors were converted forcibly some 500 years ago.

For those people all over the world who have had that experience, the next step is not entirely clear. Do they jump in with both feet and vigorously pursue their new Jewish identities, or do they simply go about their business, choosing to do nothing with this new information? These dilemmas, and more, were the subject of a recent Road Scholar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The topic — “New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews” — continues to fascinate both Jews and non-Jews, as evidenced by the religious identity of the attendees. Among those participating in this month’s session — there are 10 such programs held each year — were five residents from our area, including this author.

 

How to learn Hebrew

Confronting American Jews’ linguistic illiteracy, many programs offer help

Can you read a Hebrew newspaper or order a meal in an Israel restaurant? If you’re like the vast majority of American Jews, the answer is no.

“Half of Jews (52%), including 60% of Jews by religion and 24% of Jews of no religion, say they know the Hebrew alphabet,” according to last October’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” the famous study released by the Pew Research Center.

“But far fewer (13% of Jews overall, including 16% of Jews by religion and 4% of Jews of no religion) say they understand most or all of the words when they read Hebrew,” the report continues.

Alarmed by this finding, the World Zionist Organization, the Israeli Education Ministry, and several partner organizations recently launched the Hebrew Language Council of North America to help more Jews become conversant in the language of their literature, lore, and land — as well as the language of their peers in Israel.

 

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Helping kids play outside again

There’s an image from his trip to Israel last week that Jason Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, cannot get out of his head.

Shames was with a delegation of 125 administrative and fundraising executives from the Jewish Federations of North America. They traveled together to Greece and Israel to assess overseas needs.

“Obviously there has been a lot of change in itinerary due to what’s been going on,” Mr. Shames said on Sunday, referring to Operation Protective Edge and the constant salvos from Gaza.

“Since we landed in Israel on Thursday, when things started escalating, we spent time devising what an emergency campaign should look like, and we decided to take a small group to show support in Sderot and Beersheva.”

 

Rabbi Ira Kronenberg retires

Rabbi Ira Kronenberg of Passaic clearly has staying power.

He also has a strong sense of responsibility and a deep concern for the people he serves.

Director of religious services at the Daughters of Miriam Center/The Gallen Institute in Clifton for some 39 years, the rabbi also enjoyed a long association — from 1972 to 2008 — with the United States Army. In both arenas, he played many roles and touched the lives of countless people.

At Daughters of Miriam, Rabbi Kronenberg conducted religious services, paid pastoral visits, supervised the kitchens, mentored social work students during their internships, and served as staff coordinator for the ethics committee and the residents’ council.

 

Shoes, glorious shoes

Local couple finds success weaving footware

Today, the shoes that Itamar Carmi of Teaneck designs with his wife, Rachel, are found in 1,200 stores around the world.

But his adventures in the shoe trade started with a bad loan in New York City.

Mr. Carmi had grown up in Tel Aviv. After the army, he studied at university for a year before deciding it wasn’t for him. So he came to New York to seek his fortune. The year was 1985.

He wasn’t penniless. He had enough money to lend a not insignificant amount to a friend who owned a shoe store on Fifth Avenue.

Rather than being repaid, he was brought on as a partner and an employee.

 
 
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