“929,” a project designed to unify Israeli society around study of Tanach chapter by chapter is widening its scope as it begins its second cycle. In partnership with the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, 929 —named for the 929 chapters of the Bible— is launching an English version on Monday. (Disclosure: the author is an alumna of Drisha’s Dr. Beth Samuels High School Programs.)
Rabbi Benny Lau, a prominent liberal-leaning Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem founded 929 in 2014. The project features new commentaries on a chapter of Tanach each day for five days a week, with the weekend left open for review and catch-up. 929 finished its first study cycle of the entire Tanach this month, and has just begun its second. Dr. Jeremy Benstein, editor of 929 English described the project in a statement as “creative readings, pluralistic interpretations and short commentaries in Hebrew, by a wide range of contributors (numbering in the hundreds) all across the many spectra of Jewish life here in Israel: secular/religious, right/left, Ashkenazi/Mizrahi, center/periphery, etc.” (The video above is a graffiti commentary on Genesis 2:18.)
The previous Israeli cycle had 270,000 engaged readers (individuals who visited the website three to four times a month) and the goal for the new round is ambitious; to foster conversation between American and Israeli Jewish communities. “[We hope] to create a place and a way to promote thoughtful Jewish content; to create the grand Jewish conversation; to create a place where American Jews can talk to each other in a non-political, non-religiously-divisive way.” Rabbi Adam Mintz, director of 929 English, told The Jewish Week over the phone.
Each day from Sunday to Thursday, the English 929 website will feature the English text of the day’s chapter, as well as a short summary. Daily supplemental materials will include an audio lecture from Rabbi Silber, a shorter audio piece from Rabbi Mintz, and a piece from Rabbi Lord Dr. Jonathan Sacks, the International President of 929. Each day there will also be between five and 15 other texts, recordings, art pieces, and more from thinkers across the Jewish world. The initial lineup includes Dr. Ruth on sexuality in Genesis, noted Orthodox Bible teacher Dr. Avivah Zornberg, Rabbi Amichai Lau Lavie of the New York-based LabShul, and dean of the Conservative Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson.
“The 929 project taps into much that is core to Drisha’s identity and mission,” Shira Hecht-Koller, Director of Communal Engagement at Drisha, told The Jewish Week via email. “Led by Rabbi Silber [Drisha’s founder and dean], we have always believed in, and modeled, learning classical Jewish texts at the highest level and in a way that is accessible, inclusive and meaningful: Torah that matters is what we are all about.”
Interested learners can access English content on the 929 website starting Monday.