Thousands gather at Mets’ ballpark — for Jewish learning

From left: Orthodox Union President Moishe Bane, New York State Sen. Majority Leader John Flanagan and O.U. Executive Vice President Allen Fagin at Citi Field for Torah New York, a day of Jewish learning, April 30, 2018. (Courtesy of Kruter Photography)


(JTA) – More than 2,000 people came to Citi Field in New York on Sunday — not to root on the Mets, but to revel in Jewish learning.

Some 38 internationally renowned scholars led classes on traditional and contemporary Jewish topics at the Orthodox Union’s second annual Torah New York.

The event, which the O.U. 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, executive vice president emeritus of the O.U., said the problem in American society with addiction to opioids and other substances also exists in the Orthodox Jewish community.

“Five years ago we had a problem with OTD (‘Off The Derech’), today it’s OD (overdose),” said Weinreb, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Maryland, using the term meaning going off the path of Orthodoxy.

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In speaking about addiction in the Jewish community, Weinreb offered advice and perspectives from the Torah and the Sages on how to deal with the challenge.

Sivan Rahav Meir, a prominent political reporter for Israel’s Channel 2 News who has been outspoken about becoming Orthodox as a teenager, addressed a session on “Emunah (Faith) in the Age of New Media.” It dealt with Israel being at the forefront of technological advancement and how to merge new technologies with age-old values.

Meir spoke at length about the pleasure of shutting down Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms for the Sabbath.

Joseph Lieberman, the former U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate, addressed contemporary issues in the news.

“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.

“The behavior of public figures has an effect on dialogue and the behavior of others and our political leaders need to understand this.”

O.U. President Moishe Bane praised the commitment to Jewish learning in the Orthodox 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.