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Siyum Field Day

Yisroel Besser

It’s not the Giants or the Jets or the Super Bowl, but the 12th Siyum HaShas in MetLife Stadium on August 1st will have its own logistic challenges. How do you remake football stadium, and what if it rains? On the field, with clipboard in hand, before the crowds arrive.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

mets stadiumThe details are hazy, but I’m pretty certain that I dreamed this as a child: I was rushing toward the end zone, inches from the painted white lines, the endless green of the synthetic turf beneath of my feet, the eyes of an entire stadium following me.

Granted, in those dreams, there was likely a ball clutched to my chest and advancing attackers just out of reach — not two rabbis in suits and ties, folders and briefcases in hand.

But except for our little group, the cavernous stadium is empty.

Still, at least part of the dream is being realized — the team part. There is tremendous synergy between the two men, and they clearly love the game!

Standing in the middle of the massive field in East Rutherford, New Jersey, home of New York’s Giants and Jets, Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin and Rabbi Yosef Chaim Golding are strategizing for the Jewish “Super Bowl” — the 12th Siyum HaShas on August 1.

Rabbi Gertzulin, Agudath Israel’s executive vice president for finance and administration, and Rabbi Golding, executive director of the Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society and a leading member of the Siyum organizing committee, are both efficient and talented organizers. They’ve worked on several previous siyumim and are the key components in making this one happen.


They Get It

Just off the field, behind massive murals depicting dramatic touchdowns and memorable concerts, are the executive offices of Ron VanDeVeen, interim general manager of MetLife Stadium. The affable administrator, built like an athlete himself, held a similar position at the smaller Continental Airlines Arena (now IzodCenter) before being promoted to his current position. Seven and a half years ago, when the arena was the overflow location for the last siyum, he was also host.

I ask him what it’s like working with AgudathIsraelyet again. He indicates the two rabbis and nods. “They are the most well-prepared group. People come in here clueless ... they don’t understand the seating, the lighting, the sound. These guys come in here knowing exactly what we do, and what they need from us.”

I learn from the people in the front office that this isn’t just talk. MetLife is a privately owned facility, and many of the requests to rent the venue are rejected.

“These guys understand the business,” says VanDeVeen. “They get it.”


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