Think globally, study locally. The Central community will do its part to further that concept on Sunday, Nov. 7, when people from all denominations come together to celebrate the Global Day of Jewish Learning.
The event is timed to coincide with the completion by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz — in Jerusalem — of his 45-volume translation of and commentary on the Talmud. Hundreds of communities and organizations around the world are offering classes, seminars, and discussions, sharing a basic curriculum created around the Talmud tractate Ta’anit, to mark the occasion.
The local event, hosted by the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, will take place at the Wilf Jewish Community Campus in Scotch Plains, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will include activities for all ages.
Linda Poleyeff, the federation’s director of Jewish education, is spearheading plans for the day, together with event cochairs Stacie Friedman and Scott Lazar. “We are looking forward to a day when the entire community can learn and celebrate together — adults, seniors, young adults, children, and teens,” said Poleyeff. “We hope to instill a feeling of excitement about Torah teachings and about being part of a once-in-a-lifetime experience as we participate along with some 300 communities worldwide.”
The keynote speaker will be Rabbi Reuven Kimelman, professor of classical Judaica at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Kimelman, who sees Jewish study as the basis of Jewish unity, likens the community of Jewish learners to the spokes of a wheel, coming together — no matter what their denomination or background — around the central hub of core teachings.
That is the theme, he said, of the hundreds of worldwide events marking the Global Day. On Nov. 7, Kimelman, who is currently scholar-in-residence of the JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, will discuss the ways Jewish blessings and the Sh’ma serve as “a catalytic agent linking the individual to the divine,” to God, to the community, and to all of humanity.
“The approach is all-inclusive, with food for thought for everyone,” Kimelman said of his talk. “Those who have studied the subject will find different aspects to consider; those who haven’t will get a new understanding of it.”
Speaking with NJJN Oct. 20 by phone from his home in Boston, he suggested that Judaism calls on the individual to make divine connections at times of pleasure — like when eating or drinking or smelling something wonderful, or when encountering a good friend.
“The blessings are a way of making the pleasurable sacred,” he said. Kimelman is the author of The Hidden Poetry of the Jewish Prayerbook — The What, How, and Why of Jewish Liturgy (Jewishprayerbook.com).
His talk will be followed by a choice of six workshops led by local rabbis and educators. Their topics include the relevance of prayer to contemporary Jews, the question of whether God prays, tolerance and acceptance, and miracles, music, and mitzvot.
For children, Treasure and Rich Cohen — along with Robin Wander, the JCC of Central New Jersey’s early education program coordinator — will entertain with story-telling, puppets, and a sing-along, and there will also be programs for older children and teens. Everyone will come together at around noon for a festive finale of music and refreshments and balloon-making.
Those unable to take part in the community event can also access on-line study sessions posted at www.1people1day.org, the website of Steinsaltz’s Aleph Society. Plans worldwide have been coordinated through the website www.TheGlobalDay.com.