When 'Unity' Means Unity of the Orthodox

Daf Yomi Highlights Growing Gulf With Rest of Jewish World

Happy Moment: Orthodox young men celebrate the Daf Yomi at a packed New Jersey stadium. They heard calls for unity of Jews, but what they really meant was unity of the Orthodox.
ezra glinter
Happy Moment: Orthodox young men celebrate the Daf Yomi at a packed New Jersey stadium. They heard calls for unity of Jews, but what they really meant was unity of the Orthodox.

By Ezra Glinter

Published August 12, 2012, issue of August 17, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

“Achdus Klal Yisroel.”

At the recent Siyum HaShas, celebrating the completion of the 7-and-half-year Daf Yomi (page-a-day) Talmud regimen, that phrase — “unity of the Jewish people” — resounded like a mantra. At the ceremony, which took place at the MetLife stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., the idea of unity was affirmed by nearly every speaker. It appeared often in the 209-page event program (and the 83-page children’s program), and was featured again in the laudatory coverage in the Orthodox press. “The promise and premise of the Daf Yomi is achdus Klal Yisroel,” said the evening’s first speaker, Elly Kleinman, in his introductory remarks. “Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Modern Orthodox, Yeshivish, Hasidim and thousands of ba’alei teshuva [masters of repentance].”

Unity was not the only theme of the evening — the revival of Orthodoxy after the Holocaust and dedication to Torah study were also stressed — but it was the main emphasis. The event in New Jersey, which was only one of many celebrations around the world, packed the football field with about 90,000 Jews from nearly every branch of Orthodoxy. Groups from religious strongholds like Lakewood and Passaic were bused in, along with teenagers from nearby summer camps. The crowd filled each section of the stadium and spilled out onto concourses, escalators and parking lots. Standing in the middle of the field, which was covered to provide floor-level seating, one could see a complete panorama of black hats and jackets rising level upon level on all sides. Billed as the largest such gathering in history, the Siyum HaShas was a coming together of impressive proportions.

But as my colleague Paul Berger put it last week in these pages, a message of unity begs the question: Unity for whom? Articles such as his, and others in the non-Orthodox press, highlighted the fact that participation by women and non-Orthodox Jewish groups in the study of Daf Yomi was not recognized by the representative body of the ultra-Orthodox world, Agudath Israel, which sponsored the mega Siyum HaShas event. As Berger reported, those wanting a more inclusive siyum had to seek out other, non-Agudah celebrations. How could the Agudah gathering call itself unifying when it was also clearly exclusive?

The question is important, and easily answered. For the Orthodox, achdus Klal Yisroel means unity of the Orthodox. In this, the Siyum HaShas was remarkably successful. Though the crowd leaned toward the non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox population that constitutes the base of Agudath Israel, attendees came from nearly every stream of Orthodoxy. As for non-Orthodox groups, if they were present they were not apparent, and they were certainly not mentioned.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.