This Sunday, something big will be happening in New York: something kosher: The Orthodox Union will present “Day of Torah in the City.”
All day there will be study, speakers, discussions and much learning — everything addressing issues that will help shape Orthodox Jewry’s future in the United States.
We all know the OU sign that marks much of what we eat as kosher. But OU stands for much more; it bills itself as the national umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry. Allen Fagin, its executive vice president, has said that “this program marks an important milestone, as the Orthodox Union begins to expand its focus — to provide learning opportunities for Orthodox Jews to increase the meaning of, and inspiration for, their religious observance.” So the purpose of this special day goes far beyond the two letters found on so many food items.
Hundreds of men, women, even children are expected to be at Citi Field in Flushing, New York, to hear speakers and have conversations about a variety of topics, ranging from kashrut (of course!) to what part Judaism plays in American politics. Both men and women will be presenting aspects of Jewish law, the Bible, codes of moral and ethical behavior and Israel. Discussion is expected and questions encouraged.
The scheduled presenters promise to be as varied as the day’s subjects. While education at every level, for males and females, will of course be expected topics, there will be some new and timely ones: For example, Rabbi Gideon Weitzman, a Puah Institute director, will speak on medicine and fertility in accordance with halacha. And there will be pairs of speakers to address some topics jointly, providing varying individual viewpoints. Fagin promises, “This is where the best and brightest of Torah Judaism will share their views on the future of Orthodox Jewry.”
While adults and teens are learning, children will have programming of their own, in appropriate age groups from ages 1 through 10.
In an early publicity release for this big day, Moishe Bane, OU’s incoming president, conflated past and present: “Since 1898, the Orthodox Union has played a pivotal role in addressing the needs of American Orthodoxy,” he said. “The OU has been a unifying influence and a voice of communal leadership and representation. Throughout, the organization has recognized that the American Orthodox community’s primary aspirations are in its spiritual sustenance and growth. (These are) dependent on the involvement of each child and adult in Torah study. The OU is uniquely positioned to provide American Orthodoxy with this necessary and broad expanse of Torah study.”
Continuing into the present, “Our ‘Torah in the City’ program offers community members the opportunity to taste a varied selection of some of the topics and approaches within Torah study,” Bane said. “We hope the experience will encourage a continued quest by our community members to find the sparks of Torah that speak to them.”
In addition to being the globally recognized symbol of kosher certification, OU has represented American Orthodoxy and its interests through contacts with the nation’s government, outreach to all Jews, and efforts to assist the disabled. Among its many programs are the Institute of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), and Yachad–the National Council for Jewish Disabilities.
If you happen to be heading to New York and want to attend this event, you’ll find that free parking and lots of kosher food will be available, and weather won’t be an issue since Citi Field is an indoor venue. But pre-registration ($25) is required. Go to ou.org/citi for full information on this unprecedented Day of Torah and a list of all speakers.
Of course, one day cannot remake an ages-old movement. Nor should it. But this day promises to open doors that may take our American Jewish Orthodoxy in bold new directions.