"There were people sitting and standing in every crevice of the two rooms and hallway that were used," says Temple Israel of Hollywood's Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh, who helped organize the event. "People were studying all over the place."
Missaghieh says attendance exceeded all expectations, as Jews from across the city demonstrated their enthusiasm for studying Torah with others who might have a different point of view.
The event, called "Meeting in Torah," was sponsored by the Board of Rabbis of Southern California and the CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and supported by a dozen Westside shuls of all denominations. Musician Craig Taubman also led the group in songs, and at one point had all participants singing and swaying together to "Shehecheyanu."
Similar programs in Denver, Miami, New York and Chicago are being held in the weeks before Shavuot (which began Thursday night), the holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah.
In fact, the texts selected for the evening revolved around different concepts of Torah.
"People enjoyed the atmosphere in which they could feel comfortable sharing their thoughts about how they see Torah, how they understand Torah," says Yosef Kanefsky, the rabbi of B'nai David-Judea Congregation, who also helped organize the event. "We wanted to create a forum where Jews could, with love and honesty, share Torah with each other, and in that sense we succeeded beyond our dreams."
The event was so successful organizers hope to make it a yearly happening, and they are exploring possibilities for doing even more. Whatever the exact format future events take, one thing is clear to Kanefsky:
"Torah study is the right formula."
For more information contact the Board of Rabbis at (323) 761-8600 -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor