July 16, 2024
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929 Expands to the English World

Not much today can cross political, ethnic and denominational divides and unite people over shared values, while at the same time helping forge a bond to the most sacred text: the Tanach. 929 seeks to do just that. It started in Israel in 2014 and just finished its inaugural cycle of learning all 929 chapters of Tanach. Similar to Daf Yomi, one chapter is learned a day for five days a week, Sunday through Thursday, with Friday and Saturday used as time to catch up and refresh. The Israeli initiative is starting an English version that just launched recently.

“929 English is dedicated to creating a global Jewish conversation around issues that unite and divide us, but always anchored in, based on, or inspired by the text,” reads 929’s official press release. But the uniqueness is not only in what they learn; it’s also in how they learn: divrei Torah to paintings, poems to music. And anyone can submit content to be learned. The project is special because it brings together secular and religious people in learning. According to their press release, there were over 140,000 sessions a month happening all over the Land of Israel.

“The amount of excitement, even pre-launch, was fantastic,” Adam Mintz, director of 929 English, said. “The purpose is to give a voice to American Jews so they can share their thoughts and ideas.”

“Through programming which will be rolled out incrementally, our aim is to foster community through critical learning, creative analysis and connections among varied individuals, schools and community centers,” 929 English Director of Education Shira Hecht-Koller said. “Many such groups have already emerged organically, through 929 WhatsApp groups, that send daily recordings to one another, through our school and campus ambassadors who have mobilized learning groups with their constituents, and individuals who have reached out with innovative ideas and suggestions and desire to contribute.”

There are differences between the English and Hebrew versions. For starters, the outreach is different. One of the key reasons for success in Israel was the unity caused by mounting threats from the outside. “It’s going to be different to do the outreach but not necessarily harder,” Mintz said. Another challenge is funding the project. While the Hebrew version is funded half by the Israeli government, its English counterpart is 100 percent donation-funded. “We are raising the money ourselves,” Mintz noted. While it can be a difficult task, he is confident it will be done. Lastly, while the Israeli version has had many celebrities contribute, like singer Kobi Oz, secular philosopher Dov Elbaum, Member of Knesset Tzipi Livni, it is less likely that celebrity participation would translate to America.

Hecht-Koller pointed to one notable message that came from a woman in Langenhoeft, Germany. Prior to the launch she thanked the 929 English team for, in her words, “the opportunity to study Tanach in English with a diverse and creative group of learners and content providers.”

The 929 English Facebook page has already received 700 likes, and grand launches are expected for Twitter and Instagram as well. However, the success of the project is to bring people together in learning and culture and strengthen the Jewish community. That mission is being continued along with the goal to spread the light of Tanach to as many people as possible. View 929 English at https://www.929.org.il/lang/en/today or learn more about it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/929english.

By Zach Marcus

Zach Marcus is a rising senior at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School and a Jewish Link summer intern.

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