For generations dating to the time of the Second Temple, Jews have stayed up late to study Torah on Shavuot night. This year will be no different, asvarious organizations, synagogues and centers will offer familiar programs and lectures for intellectual consumption. Nonetheless, sprinkled throughout the city are new study opportunities.
Highlighting the offerings is a teen learning directive organized by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh. Titled, “Since I am a Foreigner: Teen Tikkun 5757,” the program will feature sessions of relevance to today’s youth, including conversations on immigration reform and menschlichkeit, explained Carolyn Gerecht, director of teen engagement and experiences at the JCC.
As incredible as it is that so many young adults will converge on the JCC for Torah study is the fact that the teens themselves largely designed the program, added Gerecht.
Such involvement is “really empowering,” she explained.
Solidifying her sentiment is Eitan Weinkle, a ninth-grader at Pittsburgh Allderdice who noted, “I am extremely excited and proud to be part of the planning committee for this event because it is a great way to bring teens from around the city together to learn about Judaism.”
An added benefit to the teen study session is that it allows parents to attend the Tikkun Leil Shavuot “without leaving their kids home alone late at night,” explained Rabbi Amy Bardack, director of Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
The Tikkun Leil Shavuot, which is free, open to the public and also at the JCC, will feature three hour-long sessions, beginning at 10 p.m. on May 30. Apart from enjoying cheesecake, coffee, and light conversation, participants may elect to hear rabbis and educators from across Pittsburgh’s Jewish spectrum. Specifically, whereas Sara Mayo, an independent cantorial soloist, will explore the roles of Ruth and Naomi through bibliodrama, and Rabbi Aaron Herman, director of Judaic Studies for the Tzohar Seminary, will chart the kabbalistic significance of America, Danielle Leshaw, senior educator at Hillel International, will describe Jewish conversations with college students regarding sex.
Following the program, Rabbi Seth Adelson of Congregation Beth Shalom will host an hour-long learning session for congregants at his home from 1 a.m. until 2 a.m. Reservations, which are required, may be made at the synagogue office, he said.
Outside of Squirrel Hill, a similar private study session will occur at 10 p.m. at the home of Rabbis Alex and Amy Greenbaum, of Beth El Congregation of the South Hills. The topic will be “The Mishebeirach (the blessing for those who are ill): Where does it come from? Why do we do it? Does God listen? Who is it for?,” explained Steve Hecht, executive director of Beth El.
Apart from that session, the South Hills synagogue will spend Shavuot partnering with Temple Emanuel of South Hills on a joint confirmation service.
The program, which is “brand new this year,” is “the obvious next step in our joint South Hills Community Jewish High School,” noted Mark Mahler, senior rabbi at Temple Emanuel.
For those still seeking study after the first night of Shavuot, the Kollel Jewish Learning Center will offer a program for men and women titled “The Torah Triad” on the afternoon of June 1, noted Rabbi Avrohom Rodkin, director of education at the Kollel. “The Torah Triad” will explore the notion that in being a “wholesome Jew, a person needs to focus on three areas of personal growth,” explained Rodkin.
With so many venues for learning, Shavuot in the Steel City should prove promising, said Gerecht.
“This tradition of late-night learning and learning connected to the holiday is really powerful.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.