Voices in Focus: After Orthodox Gathering, Skeptics Question Jewish Unity

Welcome back, readers. We have news today from New York’s ethnic and community press, including a gathering of 90,000 Jews at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, the resignation of Workplace Project’s executive director, the sale of the parent company of The Villager and Downtown Express, a new play about fleeing North Korea, and the return of SalsaFest to the Bronx.

*For seven and a half years, some Orthodox Jews around the world have read the same page of the Talmud every day in a practice known as Daf Yomi or “page of the day.” The coordinated studies culminated on Aug. 1 in a gathering of 90,000 people at MetLife Stadium in N.J.

Despite the seemingly positive display of Jewish solidarity, unity among the Jewish community at large remains a problem, the Jewish Daily Forward reported. Publishing in advance of the meeting, The Forward forecast that poor attendance by members of other Jewish groups and a relatively low proportion of women in attendance would undermine proclamations of unity.

Women, separated from the men by a $250,000 mechitzah [partition], will fill only about one-fifth of the seats, and none will be onstage as a speaker. The majority of affiliated American Jews, who belong to more liberal streams of Judaism, will be unrepresented, not to mention the unaffiliated. So, too, will leaders of mainstream Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Federations of North America.

In the past, organizing programs were centered on ethnic solidarity and the study of the Torah. The mission of more recent efforts, like those of Siyum HaShas, a group behind the Aug. 1 event, is defined by spiritual belief.

“It’s self-evident that the gathering will not appeal to the overwhelming majority of American Jews,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, which despite recently declining numbers remains American Judaism’s largest denominational movement.

*Omar Ángel Pérez, of the Workplace Project, a day laborers’ advocacy group, resigned from the position of executive director on July 30,

Omar Ángel Pérez (via La Tribuna Hispana)

Tribuna Hispana reported. In April, VoicesofNY posted a translation about dissension within the board of the Hempstead, Long Island group over the dismissal of Carlos Canales, one of the group’s best known staffers. Tribuna Hispana obtained a copy of the letter (written in Spanish).

In the letter, Pérez cites problems with fellow board members.

*Local publications, including The Villager, Downtown Express and Chelsea Now, are under new ownership, The Villager reported. Jennifer Goodstein, a former e-commerce executive, has purchased Community Media LLC, the company that owned the chain of downtown newspapers.

Goodstein, 47, is married to Les Goodstein, who is a senior vice president at News America Inc. They live in Manhattan and have a college-age son, Steven.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Under the previous ownership of John W. Sutter, who owned the company for 12 years, Community Media launched three newspapers and received numerous accolades.

Under Sutter, Community Media publications garnered their share of awards, with the papers regularly being acknowledged as among the top five newspaper groups in New York State. Over the past 12 years, Community Media has won more than 200 awards for excellence in the New York Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest across a wide range of categories, including The Villager’s three times winning the Stuart Dorman Award as the best community weekly in the state.

*Occasionally we highlight cultural events we think might be of interest to our readers. ‘You For Me For You’ is a play being produced by the Ma-Yi Theater Company from Aug. 15 to 26 at the TBG Theater, located at 312 West 36th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan, the Korea Times noted. Here’s a summary from the Ma-Yi website:

With humor and a surprising light touch, You For Me For You tells the story of two North Korean sisters who make a bargain with a smuggler to flee to the United States. When one of the sisters is denied passage to make the treacherous transpacific crossing, the other races across time and space to save her.

*SalsaFest is back in the Bronx, the Norwood News noted. Running Aug. 3 through Aug. 26, the festival will feature free concerts and opportunities to shake your stuff every Sunday for the rest of the month.