Mark Bane, a prominent Manhattan attorney and veteran lay leader of the Orthodox Union, said he sensed something amiss a few years ago in the pages of The Klal Perspectives Journal, an independent online publication at which he serves as an editor.
In one issue of the journal, on the theme of religious Jews’ obligations, several rabbis and scholars wrote of Orthodox Jews’ necessary adherence to Jewish tradition and to Jewish law, said Bane, who is known as Moishe in Jewish circles. Few of the contributors to the journal wrote of spiritual inspiration as a Jewish motivation, he said — “a vacuum of inspiration.”
Bane said he often heard the attitude — more Orthodox Jews than ever were engaged in advanced Torah study, but fewer spoke of a stronger connection with God — and felt that something should be done to improve the situation.
The start of that something will take place on Sunday, Jan. 15 at Citi Field in Flushing, Queens, the home of the New York Mets.
Some 30 scholars and activists, representing the Modern Orthodox and charedi Orthodox communities, will take part in “Torah in the City,” an all-day learning program sponsored by the OU that will offer a series of plenary sessions and concurrent lectures. The program will take place inside in the venue’s Convention Center. Free parking and kosher food will be available.
“Everything will be accessible” to Jews who lack an intensive Jewish educational background, but will be at a “high level,” said Bane, who becomes OU president on Sunday. The event’s message, he said, is “the importance of Torah study” as a means to become closer to God.
He called the program — its original name was “Torah in the Citi,” but morphed into its present title — the beginning of an expansion of the OU’s educational outreach efforts.
Some 1,000-1,300 women and men, primarily from the Modern Orthodox community, are expected to attend Sunday’s program, Bane said. In recent years, the organization’s national convention had attracted about 500 people. “This,” he said, “is our annual convention.”
Topics will include such standards as “The Efficacy of Jewish Prayer” and “Understanding Yosef & His Brothers,” to “Israeli Soldiers Under Fire,” a staple in the Religious Zionist community, “Birth Control & Family Planning” (separate sessions for men and women) and “Love & Romance in Tanach through the Prism of the Marriage of Moshe & Tzippora,” topics of interpersonal relationships that the more-conservative right-wing part of Orthodoxy would be unlikely to include in a community-wide setting.
The program, which will be followed up by other OU-sponsored educational initiatives, will feature mixed seating, and, in a partnership with Yeshiva University, matchmakers will be on hand. “Everyone” — including single men and women — “will be welcome,” Bane said.
Sunday’s plenary sessions will be live-streamed on the OU website (ou.org). Videos of the other lectures will appear on the website in future weeks, he said.
For information: ou.org/city.