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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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‘It’s valuable to hear both sides’

Ridgewood man discusses Israeli, Palestinian narratives

Jonathan Emont — a 2008 graduate of Ridgewood High School who celebrated his bar mitzvah at the town’s Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center — always has felt a deep attachment to the state of Israel.

Still, the 23-year-old said, he never expected that country to be at the center of his professional life.

Things changed, however, when the recent Swarthmore College graduate went to Israel on a tour the America-Israel Friendship League offered to young journalists.

“I did journalism in college,” he said, explaining that although he majored in history, he also was the editor of Swarthmore’s Daily Gazette.

 

Walling off, reaching out

Teaneck shul offers discussion of Women of the Wall

It is not an understatement to say that the saga of Women of the Wall is a metaphor for much of the struggle between tradition and change in Israel.

Founded 25 years ago by a group of Israeli and non-Israeli women whose religious affiliations ran from Orthodox to Reform, it has been a flashpoint for the fight for pluralism in Israel, as one side would define it, or the obligation to hold onto God-given mandates on the other.

As its members and supporters fought for the right to hold services in the women’s section, raising their voices in prayer, and later to wear tallitot and read from sifrei Torah, and as their opponents grew increasingly violent in response, it came to define questions of synagogue versus state and showcase both the strengths and the flaws of Israel’s extraordinary parliamentary system. It also highlighted rifts between American and Israeli Jews.

 

Yet more Pew

Local rabbis talk more about implications of look at American Jews

The Pew Research Center’s study of American Jews, released last October, really is the gift that keeps on giving.

As much as the Jewish community deplores the study’s findings, it seems to exert a magnetic pull over us, as if it were the moon and we the obedient tides. We can’t seem to stop talking about it. (Of course, part of that appeal is the license it gives us to talk, once again, about ourselves. We fascinate ourselves endlessly.)

That is why we found ourselves at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly last Wednesday night, with the next in the seemingly endless series of snow-and-ice storms just a few hours away, discussing the Pew study yet again.

 

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Doing well, doing good

Israeli band full of New Jersey locals hopes to tour U.S.

If a crowd-funding appeal is successful, the Israeli band G-Nome Project is coming to the United States.

This is not the scientific kind of genome project having to do with decoding DNA, but a musical project launched by four young expatriates — two of them from Teaneck.

It’s also a kind of chesed project. The band’s proposed 10-city “Giving Tour” aims to combine nightly gigs with days of good deeds such as visiting nursing homes and working in a soup kitchen.

This unusual twist was inspired by drummer Chemy Soibelman’s volunteering with Israeli children suffering from cancer.

 

Less is more

Moriah to institute new tuition affordability program

Good news for the middle class — and for Jewish day school affordability.

The Moriah School in Englewood, which runs from prekindergarten through eighth grade, has announced a new tuition affordability program, which will cut tuition for parents making as much as $360,000 a year.

Full tuition at the school ranges from $12,000 for kindergarten to $15,425 for middle school. (The prekindergarten program is not eligible for the tuition breaks.)

“We’ve been talking, as a board and as a community, about tuition affordability and the tuition crisis for years,” said Evan Sohn, the school’s president. “We decided this was the year we were going to address that issue.”

 

Scrolling through Jewish art

Local exhibit looks at text and images in old and new ways

The English letters that Harriet Fincke of Ridgewood learned when she was young are straightforward symbols that combine to form words, just as they are for everyone else.

But Hebrew letters — ah, they are something else again. “They always seemed kind of solid,” she said. “They seemed more like things,” objects in their own right, opaque. “It’s both the meaning and the look, and the relationship between them,” she said.

Those letters were a foundation part of her childhood — she went all the way through school at the Yeshiva of Flatbush. “I’d always had a kind of richly ambivalent relationship with my religious upbringing, and with the text,” she said.

 
 
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