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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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Praying while female at the Kotel

Women of the Wall representative to speak locally

What’s going on with the Women of the Wall now?

What’s happening with gender equality and pluralism in Israel, now that the Israeli election is over?

Women of the Wall, made up of women from across the Jewish spectrum, has fought for the right to pray at the Kotel — Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the symbolic center of Jewish life, the magnet that draws observant and non-observant Jews, non-Jews, poets, and often even skeptics, close to it, as if they were pure iron filings.

The group, which was formed in the late 1980s, has been bolstered by legal wins. Its most important recent victory was the April 2013 decision by Judge Moshe Sobel of the Jerusalem District Court, who ruled that the city police were wrong when they arrested five women for the crime of wearing tallitot at the women’s section of the Kotel.

 

‘Oy vey, my child is gay’

Orthodox parents seek shared connection in upcoming retreat

Eshel, a group that works to bridge the divide that often separates lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews from their Orthodox communities, is holding its third annual retreat for Orthodox parents of those LGBT Jews next month.

Although most of its work is done with Orthodox LGBT Jews — who may or may not be the children of the parents at the retreat — the retreat offers parents community, immediate understanding, the freedom to speak that comes with that understanding, the chance to learn, and the opportunity to model healthy acceptance.

“There are particular issues to being Orthodox and having a gay child, although it varies a lot from community to community,” Naomi Oppenheim of Teaneck said. “You worry about what the community is thinking about you. Someone — I don’t remember who — said, ‘When my kid came out, I went into the closet.’”

 

Twenty years later

Stephen Flatow remembers his murdered daughter Alisa

When you ask attorney Stephen Flatow of West Orange how many children he has, his answer is immediate.

“I have five children,” he says.

Not surprising. What father doesn’t know how many children he has?

And how are they doing?

Four of them are flourishing; they are all married and all parents. Mr. Flatow and his wife, Rosalyn, have 13 grandchildren, and another one’s on the way. (And three of the Flatows’ children live in Bergen County.)

But the fifth, his oldest, Alisa, was murdered by terrorists when she was 20; her 20th yahrzeit was last week. She has been dead as long as she was alive.

“Just because she isn’t there now, that doesn’t mean I’m not her father,” he said. “I just don’t have any recent pictures of her to show.”

 

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Everybody’s on the bus

Bergen, other local counties send 1,500 to lobby for Israel on Capitol Hill

The relationship between Israel and the United States might be somewhat strained right now, so at least 1,500 concerned Jews from around the area traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to plead Israel’s case.

Many of the members of that Norpac delegation are from Bergen County.

“It was very gratifying,” said Norpac’s president, Dr. Ben Chouake of Englewood. Norpac brought 33 buses to the nation’s capital on May 13.

“We cut off registration on May 4, the deadline date,” he said, noting that while the organization has been known to extend the deadline, this year, as the number of would-be attendees steadily grew, that was not possible.

“The turnout was really impressive,” said Dr. Chouake, adding that the large number of legislators who cleared time in their calendar to meet with members of his group was impressive as well.

 

The North, the South, the Civil War, and us

In Teaneck, Princeton rabbi to examine the war’s roots, its results, and its effects on the Jews

Maybe you think that we fought the Civil War to stop slavery.

Maybe you think that the causes of the war were entirely economic, and had nothing to do with slavery.

Maybe you think that good and evil were clear in the Civil War, and that the North — that would be us — represented unsullied virtue.

Well, you’d be wrong, according to Rabbi Eric Wisnia of Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction. The North was as morally culpable as the South in the great vice of slavery. There were no angels. He will discuss his understanding of American history at length and in detail during Kabbalat Shabbat services at Temple Emeth in Teaneck on Friday, May 29, at 8 p.m., in a talk he’s called “An Impartial Jewish View of the War of Yankee Aggression.” The talk coincides with the 150th anniversary of the war’s end.

 

A band of sisters

It makes sense, really. There was music everywhere. They were a family immersed in music, four sisters who sang together for years, a talented songwriter, and dreams for the future that always included music.

What else could the Glaser sisters do?

“I always wanted to be a singer in a band,” said the eldest sister, Faige Glaser Drapkin, 34, who, with her sister Chaya, one year younger, helped make that dream come true.

Chaya, too, wanted music to be “a big part of my life.”

Much of it had to do with the link between music and family. “When I saw the Mamas and Papas on Ed Sullivan, I actually thought they were a family,” she said. “I loved their harmony, spirit, and colors, and it looked like they loved what they were doing! I knew that I wanted in on that beautiful fun too.

 
 
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