Gary Goldberg attends Congregation Beth Shalom. Jerry Parness attends Congregation Poale Zedeck.
It is because they belong to different denominations that they have decided to partner up and learn Torah together on Wednesday nights at the Agency for Jewish Learning.
For the past 10 weeks, Goldberg and Parness have been one of the 25 pairs who engage in the mitzvah of Ahavat
Each pair is balanced — one partner belongs to Conservative Beth Shalom and the other belongs to Orthodox Poale Zedeck.
Which point of view holds more
weight — Orthodox or Conservative?
“We try our best to learn from each other,” they said. “The sad truth is that our enemies don’t differentiate between us. As Jews, we need to pull together to ensure our survival together.”
Jay Angel coordinates the program. “We are learning things that are 2000 years old — things about our heritage. Learning in teams on a regular basis. This is the mitzvah or Ahavat Yisroel — fellowship amongst each other.”
Ahavat Yisroel is a central principle of Judaism. You are responsible for all other Jews in the world. Each one is responsible for the other. Loving one’s fellow Jew is one of the mitzvah’s in the Torah.
“Visions of the Fathers: Pirkei Avos with an Insightful and Inspiring Commentary” by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski was chosen as the textbook for the
Angel explained that the book was chosen because “Jewish ethics is safe territory — something that Jews of all denominations can relate to. There’s a spectrum, but there’s a commonality that links all Jews together.”
Each pair finds a quiet spot to study. Reading the Hebrew text first and then Twerski’s English commentary, they learn together. What does it say? What does it mean? How can we interpret it?
The group was funded with an initial grant of $2,500 from the United Jewish Federation. AJL has provided the use of their building for the weekly activity. And although last Wednesday was the 11th and final week, the program was so successful that the teams have decided to continue to learn together for the remaining 10 weeks that lead up to Shavout.
New participants are welcome to join.
“AJL has planned a major program at the Jewish Community Center on Shavout night at the JCC — 13 to 15 synagogues will be involved. This is a great run-up to that program. You can study here for an hour as a warm-up and then join the entire community at the JCC,” said Ed Frim, director AJL.
(Dev Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)