Forward Thinking

Neither Rain Nor Traffic Slows Siyum (See Video)

By Ezra Glinter

ezra glinter

Despite rain and traffic jams, the mood was jubilant at MetLife stadium on August 1, as some 90,000 Orthodox Jews gathered to celebrate the completion of the study of the Talmud, or Siyum HaShas.

A massive crowd of mostly ultra-Orthodox men in dark suits and hats packed the East Rutherford, N.J., football stadium, spilling out onto concourses, escalators and parking lots. Several thousand women also attended, seated on the upper level behind a specially constructed, $250,000 divider made of green plastic that remained open for much of the evening.

“It was inspiring,” said Yossi Gelber, an accountant from Queens who has participated off and on in the page-a-day Talmud regimen, or Daf Yomi, since 1990. “How often do you get to [pray] with 90,000 people?”

“I came to have an imprint in my mind and to be part of something wonderful,” added Pnina Fenig, a speech therapist and Toronto native now living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The event, which began at 7:30 pm and lasted until after midnight, marked the 12th completion of the 2,711-page cycle that begins anew every seven-and-a-half years. The daily study system was initiated in 1923 in Vienna, at the first congress of Agudath Israel, by Rabbi Meir Shapiro.

While this year’s event marked the largest such gathering to date, celebrations were held in previous years at venues such as Madison Square Garden, Continental Airlines Arena and Nassau Coliseum.

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