Loving learning

Some 25,000 Haredi men gather in Philadelphia to celebrate yeshiva study

Gathering feted, raised money for major increase in stipends for older students at the Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J.

Another mass gathering of American Jews took place on Sunday in addition to the New York Celebrate Israel Parade: More than 20,000 Haredi men traveled to Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for a night of singing and divrei Torah by top rabbis in honor of yeshiva study.

The event, dubbed Adirei Torah – literally, the Greats of the Torah – was organized by Lazer Scheiner, a nursing home magnate and major donor to Haredi causes. The initiative commemorated a major increase in stipends for men studying in the Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J.

Videos and photographs from Sunday night showed the entire stadium was filled to capacity. Organizers said that 25,000 people attended the event, though the Wells Fargo Center says the stadium has a maximum capacity of 21,500.

According to the organizers, the idea for the event came about two years ago, when donors came forward looking to triple the stipends paid to men studying in the yeshiva’s kollel, its place of study for men.

“They pledged to nearly triple the kollel check to $13,500 (which includes a [holiday] bonus of $750 biannually,) embarking on a far-reaching campaign – a historic one by all measures – to bring their vision to reality,” organizers said. “The kollel budget had morphed from $17.8 million annually to the current annual budget of $61.4 million.”

This was the second Adirei Torah event, which both celebrated the increased stipends for kollel students and helped raise money to fund them. Last year’s was also held in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.

In addition to bringing in large numbers of graduates from Lakewood’s Beth Medrash Govoha, top rabbis from Israel flew in for the event, including Rabbi Meir Tzvi Bergman, 93, the head of the Rashbi Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, who was given special dispensation to attend the event despite sitting shiva for his son who recently died of cancer, and Rabbi Dov Landau, 93, the head of the Slabodka Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

The keynote drasha was delivered by Rav Elya Chaim Swerdloff, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedolah of Paterson, N.J.