The eighth and ninth floors of Madison Square Garden, usually reserved for less-wealthy sports fans, were home for a few hours this week to a few thousand women attending the celebration of the completion of daily Talmud study. Crowding in for single-sex elevator rides, the girls, wives, mothers and senior citizens attending Tuesday night’s event excitedly wished each other “mazel tov.”
For the most part, these women were not celebrating their own completion of the Talmud-reading cycle, known as Daf Yomi, because the reading generally is done by men.
For them, the event held a different meaning, one that they still found moving.
Many of the women standing on line waiting to use the men’s rooms — reserved for the evening for women only — were brimming to share their excitement.
Rachel Avigdor, 25, had arrived with a busload of people from her synagogue in Connecticut.”Many of these men finishing are only able to do it because their wife supports” their learning,” she said. “The wife will get that merit, too.”
She added: “When I get married, I hope my husband will be a part of this, too.”
One of the key speakers of the evening, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz, the Bostoner Rebbe, offered similar sentiments.
“We owe a big thanks to our wives, who have given up so much that rightfully belongs to them, for the sake of Torah,” he said.
The women attending the event said they didn’t mind their supporting roles, expressing a shared joy in the personal and global experience of the occasion, which was celebrated around the world.
“People all over the world are gathering for this. I have such a sense of pride — not just for myself, but for the entire Jewish people,” said Ellen Silver, a 66-year-old woman from Brooklyn. Two of her sons completed the Talmud cycle this year.
Whatever their reasons for attending, the women seated in the Garden’s top floors were a lively part of the celebration.
Enjoying kosher danish specially stocked in the concession stands for the occasion, talking on cell phones to friends and family or clapping and bouncing as men sang and danced below when the final words were recited, the women were a lively presence, even though they were not visible to the majority of the attendees.
Some younger women came to enjoy the event as spectacle.
Some, looking through binoculars — necessary because of the distance of the women’s section from the main stage — marveled at the masses of Jews gathered in the Garden.
“I came with a friend,” said Melissa Gardonyi, 26, from suburban New York. “This is a once in a seven-and-a-half-year event — it’s amazing to see this many Jewish people together in one place.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.