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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.

 

Paying it forward

Remembering Gabby Reuveni’s generous spirit

Just a glance at the web page created in memory of Gabby Reuveni of Paramus gives some indication of the number of people she touched and — through the ongoing efforts of her family — she continues to touch.

Killed two years ago in Pennsylvania by a driver who swerved onto the shoulder of the road, where she was running, Gabby, who was 20, was “an extremely aware and kind person,” her mother, Jacqueline Reuveni, said. “We’re continuing her legacy.”

The family has undertaken both public and private “acts of kindness,” she said, from endowing scholarships to meeting local families’ medical bills.

According to her father, Michael Reuveni, Gabby — then a student at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the school’s track team — was a victim of vehicular homicide.

 

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It was a fight for American democracy in the face of terrorism.

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The year was 1964.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech the previous August, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In Washington, a far-reaching civil rights bill that would desegregate public facilities had been introduced to Congress by President Lyndon Johnson — but quickly stalled and was then filibustered for months.

 

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“I would come on the weekends for Shabbat and on yom tov to assist Rabbi Kronenberg,” he said. “I would lead davening, give Torah classes, go to the Alzheimer’s unit, and try to engage the residents Jewishly. I had a special rapport with Rabbi Kronenberg and the residents.”

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Mr. London, who lives in suburban Maryland, is the Zionist Organization of America’s co-director of government affairs. He will be taking a break from his daily routine — lobbying Congress to further the ZOA’s own understanding of the Middle East — to speak at a parlor meeting in Teaneck on Wednesday.

His goal, he said, “is to bring clarity and critical analysis to the longstanding U.S. policy for support of — and in fact to apply pressure toward — the creation of a Palestinian state from territory that otherwise belongs to Israel, and to do so under the notion that this will bring peace.”

 
 
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