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Q&A With Rabbi David Pardo From OU at Torah New York

FAST FACTS:

Name: Rabbi David Pardo

Title: Managing Director of Torah Initiatives

Years working for OU: 6

Job for the OU when you are not working on Torah NY: Centralizing our strategy and resources to increase access to and quality of Torah learning for Orthodox adults, and starting a community for frum young professionals in their work lives.

Grew up in: Los Angeles

Currently live in: Paramus, NJ

(I know, why did I leave LA?? Kappara on all my sins)

Yeshiva/Education:  Yeshivat Har Etzion, UCLA for my bachelors, YU for  smicha, and Brandeis for my MBA

Years the OU has been doing the Torah NY at Citifield: People working on the Torah NY event:  So many people from so many departments,  but a special shout out to Hannah Farkas who’s the  only person totally on for three years straight.

Why should everyone run to register for the OU Torah New York at Citifield taking place on Sunday September 22?

They should come for the obvious reasons: dozens of world class scholars under one roof, unreal learning opportunities, great food, and fun for the entire family.

But I think there’s something more: Torah NY is emerging as the annual community-wide event, a declaration that the place where we want to show up, we want to see and be seen, is an event exclusively about Torah. What an incredible statement!

At the last OU Torah event I went to, one of the main speakers that was “out of the box” was Senator Joe Lieberman. Who are the main speakers this year and are there any “out of the box” speakers?

I think each speaker is out of the box in their own way and we have quite the representation. We’ve also added programming outside of shiurim. Dovid Lichtenstein is doing a live recording of his Headlines podcast. Naomi Nachman (gourmet chef and food instagrammer) is doing a cooking demo together with a specialist from OU Kosher who will explain Shabbos and Yuntif related cooking halachos. Rav Mordechai Willig and Charlie Harary are doing a ba’al tefillah training for non-professional chazzanim. And there’s tons of other things. So the program has really grown to be a real celebration of the breadth and depth of Torah.

Is anyone special from Eretz Yisrael coming in this year just for the event?

So many! Rabbis Yosef Tzvi Rimon and Judah Mischel, Mmes Shira Smiles, Dina Schoonmaker, and Shani Taragin, and Drs. Ora Wiskind and Jeffrey Woolf are coming in to teach. Mrs. Sivan Rahav Meir has just begun her year-long shlichut to North America for World Mizrahi, and Rabbi Elyada Goldvicht is coming to celebrate the North American Siyum of the Semichas Chaver Program.

How does it work if someone wants to hear two or three different shuirim that are going on concurrently?

Find a friend, send them to the other shiur, and get the notes after!

What can I tell you, there’s so much Torah to learn and only a lifetime to do it, you have to pick your favorite (the makom sh’libecha chafetz, so to speak).

What would you say is the main purpose of this event? Why does the OU do this event?

The OU believes that in addition to Shabbos, kashrus, and taharas hamishpacha, Limmud haTorah must become one of the minimum threshold mitzvot one observes in order to be a responsible Jewish adult, and it’s our responsibility to increase access to and quality of Torah programming across every community. To that end, as of this year Torah NY is now part of the Torah Initiatives Department, which is investing in a wide swath of programs to achieve this lofty goal. So Torah NY is emerging as the event of the year, and rightfully so, and mi k’amcha Yisrael that the event of the year is about learning Torah!

Is there a theme to the classes given this year?

The theme is always Torah and always intentionally diverse, but this year half of the shiurim are about the Yamim Noraim.

Are all the classes for both men & women?

Yes, and there are a number of classes that are women only.

In the past the OU ran this event in the winter, is there a reason why they are doing it now in September?

As this program emerges as our marquee event, we’re seeing how different seasons affect it’s reception. Planning it so close to Rosh Hashana this year is auspicious, and we hope to see people use it as an excellent way to prepare for the Yamim Noraim.

How much preparation is involved in putting together an event like this?

Much, much more than I ever imagined. I stepped into this program in its third year having been to the previous two as an attendee. Between putting the program together, working with speakers, topics, themes, vendors, contractors, and a million moving parts, before you even get to marketing and fundraising, it’s been quite the experience. My dream is for this day to pull in 10,000 attendees (and more!) and have a full time staff working on it.

Is the event teenage & kid friendly? What do you have planned for them?

Yes! For the first time we’re unveiling a robust children’s program that’s part of the spirit of the day. In addition to things like mini golf and magic shows, we also have a shofar factory (you can take them home!) and make-your-own chocolate that will incorporate learning about the kashrus of chocolate. NCSY is organizing teen-friendly learning plus an inter-school Torah Bowl that promises to be a ton of fun.

What should everyone bring along with them to the event? Some good shoes and a lot of energy, we’ve got the rest! We’ll provide note taking utensils and there’s plenty of delicious food at the concession stands.

Will there be kosher food? You bet!

Will there be minyanim going on throughout the day? We have minchas spread out throughout the afternoon.

How can someone purchase tickets? Visit TorahNY.org. Adult tickets are $50 each, seniors and youth are discounted, and there is a family cap of $100.

Will parking be $25 a car, like it is when you go to a Mets game at Citifield? Just for you, we’ve arranged absolutely free parking.

Will any of the New York Mets be there helping out?:) They really view our event as a big zchus helping them out for their game the following day!