Where would you expect to see a couple of thousand Jews studying Torah all day? Maybe a beis midrash or yeshivah or shul. But this past Sunday, it was Citi Field, the stadium in Queens, New York, that was the venue for a multitude gathering for learning.
The second annual Torah New York gathering, organized by the Orthodox Union, brought over 2,000 Jews to hear in-depth Torah shiurim from a roster of well-known maggidei shiur. To get an idea of the intent of this gathering and the learning that was accomplished, Ami spoke with Moishe Bane, the OU’s president.
Q: I understand that you had a very successful gathering.
A: Yes. Baruch Hashem, it was phenomenal.
Q: This is not the first time you were holding this, so I assume that when you say it was phenomenal it means that it was greater than ever.
A: Yes. We did it last year for the first time, after I became president, and this year we did it for the second time. We moved it from January to April because we wanted to avoid the snow risk, and we also thought that the period right before Shavuos was the appropriate time for the theme we wanted to convey.
Q: You covered many topics, so this wasn’t necessarily just a day of learning.
A: The entire day was devoted exclusively to Torah; every session was a shiur. There weren’t any social issues or discussions of general issues. Every session was a shiur and everything was based on text. It was all shiurim, and very deliberately so. For example, Heshy Weinreb [Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb] gave a shiur on addiction. He went through mekoros for how to reconcile the concept of addiction with bechirah. Someone else gave a shiur on hishtadlus and bitachon, but it was based on texts of Torah.
Q: I understand that this also coincided with the 25th yahrtzeit of Rabbi Soloveitchik.
A: Right. It was commemorating his 25th yahrtzeit. We had four shiurim by different talmidim looking at different aspects of his limudim, on his shitos and on understanding how he approached different parts of Torah.
Q: How many people were there at the event?
A: A little over 2,000.
Q: Limud haTorah for 2,000 people is no minor accomplishment, so I guess that this in itself is probably worth everything. But besides that, I assume that you had other intentions as well.
A: It was all about limud haTorah, but I think it had two dimensions to it. One was the individuals who actually participated—the over 2,000 people who were there yesterday—but our experience is that there will be many multiples of that who will be listening to the shiurim, which will now be online. That was our experience last time.
But even more so is the message to the community of how central learning Torah has to be to being an observant Orthodox Jew, and how meaningful and accessible it is if you can find the dimension of Torah that is appropriate for you. So we were very deliberate in having a very wide variety of topics and types of speakers, to allow different people to find different parts of Torah that speak to them, which would therefore result in them continuing to learn in those areas.
Q: I assume that the types of individuals who came were from a wide spectrum.
A: It was extraordinary. It ranged from people who looked like they were coming from Williamsburg to people who you couldn’t necessarily tell from their appearance whether they were observant Jews.
Q: The common denominator that everyone had was learning Torah.