Fwd/NYC Founder and CEO Shmuli Rosenberg, who served as Chief Marketing Officer of the 13th Siyum HaShas, spent the past two years living and breathing the Siyum, as he and his team mapped out every detail of this beautiful event. In the aftermath of the Siyum, Shmuli was finally able to catch his breath long enough to speak to Gershon Hellman of Ami Magazine and reflect on all that went into this monumental celebration of Torah and describe his personal feelings at this momentous time.
How long did the planning for the Siyum take?
Discussions and planning for the 13th Siyum began immediately after the conclusion of the 12th Siyum. There is no break. My involvement in the planning began two years ago.
How was the planning for the Siyum different from planning other large events?
I arrange and coordinate events for a living, and I can tell you that arranging a dinner for a yeshivah or a kinus for an organization is always a bit nerve-racking. Usually the concern is if the crowd will show up. You can never really know with 100% certainty. You advertise, you speak to people, you get the word out, you call people—but you never really know if the hall will be full. As people come in, it’s a relief. The Siyum is the exact opposite. There was no doubt that people would come, and as the crowd filed in it became more intense. The magnitude of the event hit me in a much stronger way than for any other event. As the crowd was coming in, we were getting updated numbers from the stadium—50,000 people have entered, 60,000 have entered, 70,000, 80,000—the numbers are so overwhelming that it does create a pressure and a certain level of tension for the organizers, who have to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.
Did the pressure start mounting as the big day approached?
I spent countless hours in MetLife Stadium over the past year, taking part in many meetings. As the big day approached, the meetings became more frequent and my trips to MetLife became more constant. For me, Monday was when it really began to feel “real.” I basically moved into the stadium from then on. I spent almost the entire Monday in the stadium. A lot of that time was spent on logistics, such as going over the programs, making final changes, reviewing everything with the camera crews, as well as with the lighting, sound, music, stage, broadcasting, translating and numerous other teams. Each of these teams is impacted by one small change in the program, and we sat with each of them to do a walk-through of the program and make sure they were all ready for the final production. All of that was reviewed for a final time on Monday.
On Tuesday, a big portion of the day was spent on music rehearsals, sound checks and recording setups. A big portion of the second half of the day was spent on the Barclay’s program and plans. A lot of the MetLife program was broadcast at Barclay’s, but they also had their own program. Each part of the program in Barclay’s had to be finalized and synchronized with the MetLife program to ensure that both programs remained in step with each other and ran smoothly simultaneously.
On Wednesday morning, there was a minyan for Shacharis at vasikin. From the early morning on, we were actively working in the stadium, making sure everything was set up down to the last detail. Crews were sent to make sure all the suites were set up properly, the clubs were set up properly, ticket collection was set up properly, the magazines were placed in the proper places, the seating on the stage was right, the communication system on the stage was working well, the podiums on the stage were assembled sturdily, the band was set up right, the sheet music was properly laid out, the right papers were on the podium in front of the speakers and those who were to recite Kaddish, making sure the large print Hadran was prepared for Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, a large print Gemara was ready for Rav Aharon Feldman, the Shishah Sidrei Mishnah Kaddish was prepared for the one who recited it, and the Kaddish was prepared for Mr. Schottenstein in the print he is used to. Those are just some examples of the hundreds of details that had to be finalized on Wednesday morning. Every detail was very important, and we were busy with them right until Minchah.
The doors opened at 11, and the stadium slowly started filling up. By about 12:30, the stadium was almost three-quarters full. As Minchah began, the stadium filled up. By the end of Minchah, it was filled to capacity. It was a very humbling and inspiring thing to see and experience.