East Meadow Synagogue Completes 39-Year Bible Study | Herald Community Newspapers


The East Meadow Beth-El Jewish Center on Prospect Avenue in East Meadow on Feb. 3 completed a project few others have undertaken — a nearly 40-year-old, word-by-word, verse-by-verse study of the Jewish Bible.

“I wanted to engage our adults in adult learning,” Rabbi Ronald Androphy said. “Personally, and the synagogue, I believe that Jews should be lifelong learners,” adding that religious education is not just for children but also for adults.

Androphy started the class in 1983 with “Genesis,” the first chapter of “Tanach,” the Jewish Bible they studied every Thursday from October through spring, verse by verse.

The class started with around 40 students and ended last Thursday with 50 screens plugged into a class on Zoom, which Androphy switched to during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The entire Bible is a long document, and it has 39 books, 929 chapters, and tens of thousands of verses, and we’ve done every verse,” Androphy said. “There are over 23,000 verses in the entire Bible.”

Androphy said the class studied the English translation of the Hebrew Bible, but also analyzed the different interpretations of Hebrew words. They used all the tools of Bible study, including traditional and modern commentaries, archaeology, other Semitic languages, and modern literary theories.

Eleanor Goldman, now 93, has been in the class from the start. “When the rabbi first announced he was going to have this class, I joined because I thought I would like an adult version,” Goldman said. “My knowledge of the Bible came from what I had learned in Hebrew school and Hebrew high school.”

Goldman described Androphy as a wonderful teacher. “He really encourages you to reflect,” she said. “We went through this word by word, sentence by sentence, and he always explained what we learned through archaeology, and he explained the grammar and made sure we were following.”

Judy Sorscher, head of EMBEJC’s adult education department, has attended the class for around 15 years and is jokingly nicknamed “the beginner”. She said Androphy is a wonderful storyteller. He “is a man who truly believes in a thorough and entertaining course,” Sorscher said. “He really knows his stuff, and we all enjoyed his side comments and tangents.”

Androphy says he knows of no other synagogue that has undertaken such a study. Students ensured that the words they read made sense from the perspective of the author in the context in which they were written, and they investigated the relevance of the words today.

“I have sworn not to retire until I complete this study,” he said. “I realized early on that it was going to be a long process because we were so thorough.” Androphy said he has no plans to retire anytime soon.

Goldman said she didn’t expect the study to take nearly 40 years, joking with Androphy that she had hoped to live long enough to complete it. “I was being facetious,” she said, “but it turned out that I was the last surviving member of the original group.”

Androphy said doing an in-depth study like this gives the Jewish people a comprehensive overview of the founding period of the Jewish people and religion. The Bible “can teach us so many important lessons about how to live our own lives in this world of ours,” he said.

Goldman said the most fascinating part for her was trying to figure out the exact meaning of the words and verses. “We were doing our class in English,” she said. “The rabbi would have Hebrew for us, and I would watch this because I know Hebrew and have some knowledge of it, but going deeper into Hebrew was fascinating.”

Exhilaration and accomplishment is what Androphy said he felt after completing the course. He said the number of people in the class and the work he put into preparing it helped him feel that way.

Sorscher said she was happy and excited to finish and looked forward to continuing the band’s studies. “It was a wonderful trip,” she said.

The synagogue will now study two of the books of the Apocrypha, Suzannah and Judith, Jewish books that were not included in the canonized Jewish Bible, as they came later.


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