When I read last week that Los Angeles had canceled its participation in the “Global Day of Jewish Learning” due to lack of “high caliber people” to give talks and to participate in the event, I began to realize more concretely the blessings of living in West Hartford. In this small corner of the Jewish world we were able to find both talent and interest in being part of a project that helps us sink ever deeper roots into the soil of Jewish life and continuity.
Maybe the key here is the art of modesty: We did not plan for hundreds and were rewarded by a glimpse of greatness in a few dozen learners ranging in age and background. My own corner of observation on the event of Nov. 7 was the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy in Bloomfield. I knew that our events were linked up on the global site sponsored by Rabbi Adin Steinsalt’s Aleph Foundation — which funded and promoted the huge project of translating the Talmud into modern languages such as Hebrew, French, English, Russian and Spanish. Our piece was a very small part of a larger puzzle–but a marvelously complex piece it was!
From 9:30 to noon this past Sunday, we were privileged to hear insights into a wide variety of Jewish subjects from speakers ranging from Hebrew Academy graduate Elie Wolfe to young parents such as Elisha Rosensweig and Mark Schwartz, as well as distinguished community experts such as Dr. Refael Blum and Dr. Regina Miller. We explored the shifting meanings of Jewish law in the hands of compassionate Talmudic rabbis, as well as the inspirational power of Chassidus and Kabbalah, with room to also explore the challenges of modern parenting as well as the responsibility of both learning and teaching Torah across the generations. There was even time for a short excursion into Rabbi Steinsaltz’s own views of Chinese culture and the elements it shares with the wisdom of the classical Jewish text of Prikei.
The warmth and the excitement were palpable in the few hours that we spent learning together. This, of course, was precisely the goal in launching the idea of “one people, one day” — to savor Jewish unity while sowing the seeds of further engagement with texts that carry us forward vigorously from past to future.
So, West Hartford is not Los Angeles. We saw the benefits of this fully last Sunday.
Vera Schwarcz, West Hartford