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Orthodox Jews celebrate the reading of the Talmud

September 29, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Thousands of Orthodox Jews gathered in New York and in cities around the world Sunday to celebrate the end of a 7 1/2-year reading of the Talmud, the early religious writings that are the foundation of Jewish civil and religious law.

It was the tenth cycle completed since the program known as Daf Yomi began in Vienna, Austria, in 1923.

``The study of Jewish text is to us, the greatest guarantor of Jewish continuity,″ said David Zwiebel, a lawyer for Agudath Israel of America, the New York-based Orthodox Jewish movement that sponsored the event worldwide. ``Studying the Talmud is a primer in the dedication of being an observant Jew.″

As a crowd estimated at 26,000 swayed and prayed, prominent rabbis sang and spoke in Yiddish and Hebrew during the three-hour Madison Square Garden program. Some 20,000 people were expected at a simultaneous celebration at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

Among the speakers at Madison Square Garden were Moshe Sherer, president of Agudath Israel, Yakov Weinberg, dean of Baltimore’s Ner Israel Rabbinical College and Elya Svei, dean of the Philadelphia Rabbinical Academy.

Around the arena, celebrants could watch as large video screens broadcast scenes from Daf Yomi celebrations in other cities, including Baltimore; Detroit; San Diego; Montreal; Melbourne, Australia; London; Jerusalem; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Caracas, Venezuela.

It takes more than seven years to complete the readings because the text of 2,711 double pages are read and studied at a rate of one per day, said Nancy Brenner, a spokeswoman for Agudath Israel.

``Daf Yomi″ means daily page in Hebrew.

Organizers estimated that over 100,000 Jews worldwide participated in Sunday’s celebration.

The Talmud is a combination of written text, expounding on the first five books of the Bible, and the continuously evolving oral and written interpretation of those religious laws.

Its course of study is intellectually rigorous and requires an ability to read Hebrew and an in-depth knowledge and observance of Judaism.

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