EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Tens of thousands of Jewish people congregated Wednesday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to celebrate the reading of the entire Talmud in an event called Siyum HaShas — and drew a heavy security presence after recent anti-Semitic attacks in the area.
The New Year’s Day event celebrated the completion of the reading of the 2,711-page Babylonian Talmud, a process that takes 7 1/2 years. Similar events have recently been held in major cities around the globe, such as Mexico City, while others are scheduled in the next few weeks.
The Talmud contains discussions of Jewish law that guide every aspect of life.
“It’s an incredibly unifying force. Not only is it the personal accomplishment of completing the entire Talmud. But knowing you’re doing it together with everybody,” Lakewood, N.J.’s Dr. Isaac Perle told CBS2’s Scott Rapoport.
“This leaves an impact in one’s brain, and it puts a certain beauty of Judaism inside the person’s soul,” added Sarah Schwab of Monsey, N.Y.
Rabbi Yosef C. Golding, an organizer, told The Record newspaper that he has worked with more than 50 law enforcement agencies on security for the event, and that more than 300 uniformed state police were in the stadium. The event was broadcast internationally.
Organizers expected more than 92,000 people to attend. The last event at the stadium in 2012 drew about 90,000, organizers told The Record. Wednesday marked the 13th time the event has been held since 1923, and it took place at a time when anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise and Jews are feeling less safe.
The Tri-State Area, in particular, has been rocked by recent attacks on Jews. On Dec. 10, two shooters targeted a kosher market in Jersey City, N.J., killing three people, and last weekend a man stabbed five people at the home of a rabbi in Monsey.
It’s something New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy touched on at MetLife on Wednesday.
“It’s our job to make sure we stand tall and strong and have the backs of our Jewish communities,” Murphy said.
There also have been several street assaults in New York City in recent weeks.
“I live in Pittsburgh and of course, just over a year ago, we had the massacre in Pittsburgh. We see what’s been happening here, all of the anti-Semitic attacks last week and on the streets in New York,” said Rabbi Daniel Wasserman of the Shaare Torah Congregation. “Whatever the reasons are, I’ll leave that to the political scientists. But the reality is that whether it’s ourselves or any ethnic group, we are here. We’re proud. We’re not going anywhere. And this is a perfect example of it.”
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