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Feb 19, 2012

The Most Expensive Mechitza In History

MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey will be constructing a mechitza. It seems that they found so many Jews who were fans of the New York Giants that they decided the mechitza would be a big draw to get more Jews to come to more Giants games, especially since they recently won the Super Bowl.

Just joking. That is, joking about the mechitza for Giants games. MetLife is going to be constructing a mechitza, but for the siyum ha'shas that will be held in the stadium, as reported on 5tjt. The price tag that Agudas Yisrael is going to pay for the construction (and for the dismantling of it after the event) is a hefty $250,000.

From the 5TJT:
Our community has unique cultural and religious requirements, so MetLife Stadium worked hand-in-hand with Agudath Israel of America to accommodate religious fans. A major breakthrough has been announced: MetLife Stadium will build a mechitzah across the entire stadium to accommodate separate seating for men and women. The mechitzah will run through all seating levels. The result: over 20,000 seats available for a women’s section.
This will mark the first time in United States history that a mechitzah of this magnitude will be built. Negotiations to build this mechitzah could not have been easy. Flimsy movable partitions are not an option when public safety is involved. This will be a solidly installed mechitzah which will be supported by beams that are drilled into the stadium’s new concrete walls. The mechitzah construction carries a price tag of no less than a quarter of a million dollars.
Will women now be able to perform “the wave” at sports events with complete privacy? Unfortunately, current plans call for the mechitzah to be dismantled after the Siyum HaShas in August. Currently, the plans are to return the stadium to the same condition it was in before the mechitzah was installed. (But maybe MetLife Stadium will alter its plans after witnessing the tremendous kiddush Hashem.) Repairing the holes in the concrete is one reason why the mechitzah carries such a high price tag.
One can debate whether a mechitzah is actually necessary at this event. Yet, to encourage all segments of the Orthodox population to attend, there is no question that having a mechitzah is important.
A Siyum HaShas is held as a celebration of completing the daf yomi cycle. Daf yomi learners study a page a day of the Talmud and complete the entire Talmud every seven and a half years. The sixth Siyum HaShas took place in 1968 at the Bais Yaakov of Boro Park; 300 people attended. The ninth Siyum HaShas was held in 1990 at Madison Square Garden; 20,000 people attended. This summer, a giant leap forward will be made when the twelfth Siyum HaShas will be held at MetLife Stadium, which can accommodate over 90,000 people.
Some amenities of the stadium are particularly noteworthy. MetLife Stadium has been equipped with the most advanced assistive listening system (ALS). This is a perfect system to offer simultaneous translation of the speeches for those that need it. Guests who choose to bring their own headset and receiver may access the system on a standard FM broadcast.
The stadium was built to accommodate handicapped individuals. This ensures that everyone may take part in the Siyum HaShas. There will be 25,000 spots available for parking, but mass transit is recommended. The Meadowlands Rail Line of NJ Transit operates on event days between the newly constructed Meadowlands Station and Hoboken Terminal via Secaucus Junction, where there is connecting service to Pennsylvania Station (New York City), Pennsylvania Station (Newark), and other New Jersey Transit rail operations. NJ Transit will have the Siyum HaShas on its schedule.
Regarding a tax deduction for attending the siyum, the tax experts at Agudath Israel have advised the community that purchasing seats to attend a religious siyum ceremony is no different than purchasing a High Holy Day seat in a synagogue. You may take the ticket price as a tax deduction, but not the food purchased at concession stands.
The real question on everyone’s mind is: what if it rains? MetLife Stadium did not build a dome, because of a dispute over financing. Agudath Israel has contracted with MetLife Stadium to reserve Thursday night as well for a rain date. Everyone is urged to supply Agudath Israel with a cell number or e‑mail address to be contacted in case of inclement weather.
Because the siyum is being held in an open-air stadium in the middle of a potentially hot summer, a decision was made to start the siyum an hour later than past siyumim. The start time is officially 7:00 p.m. Sunset is around 7:45. There will be ample time to daven Minchah at the biggest minyan in recent history. Due to the later start time, Agudath Israel will try to cut down on the program somewhat to allow people to return home at a decent hour.
Agudath Israel is arranging transportation from the Catskills for campers who want to attend the event. Even young children may attend. Parents must decide if their child will be able to sit for a few hours of speeches. The Agudah is not instituting a minimum age.
Seats are going fast and Agudath Israel expects a sellout crowd. Already over 30,000 seats have been requested. Group requests have come in from places such as Dallas, Los Angeles, Panama, and Argentina. Since the idea behind the event is to service those that study daf yomi, Agudath Israel is giving priority seating to them. After February, seating will be open to the general public. Anyone can request a seat now, but the order will not be fulfilled until all the priority seating applications have been processed.
Ticket prices range from $18 through $1,000. All seats facing the dais are more expensive than those behind the dais. Everyone will be able to view the ceremonies on the video screens.
In conjunction with the Siyum HaShas, Agudath Israel is arranging a program for children. Children who complete a segment of Torah will be eligible for a prize. The smallest prize will be an authentic authorized Siyum HaShas commemorative pen that will likely be awarded to children who complete a perek of Mishnayos (such as Pirkei Avos.)
In the words of the Agudah, “This siyum, like others before it, will honor the memory of the six million kedoshim who perished in the fires of Churban Europe. It will be a powerful testament to the eternity of Torah and the idea that it alone can preserve our past and ensure our future.”
That is pretty impressive. I don't remember if mechitzas were used in previous large events like the siyum hashas, or if they divided people into different seating sections and that was enough of a separation. Either way, quarter of a million dollars is a pretty hefty price tag to pay for a mechitza...

I wonder if this will go down in the record books as the most expensive mechitza ever, or maybe as the largest mechitza ever.


  1. This may be a silly question, but what would a mechitza do to shield the male "fans" on the other side of the stadium, who would presumably be facing the women?

  2. I think they are nuts. Why not just put the women in their own section? (stadiums are like that, you know) Or put women in the "balcony" seats?

    Besides, why are women coming anyway? According to their hashkafa they aren't permitted to learn Gemara anyway! Are they so sure that not one speaker will teach a bit of Gemara at a siyum - LOL.

    I think it's political and a fund-raising ploy. Someone promised them the quarter million, and they think that appearing to be frummer ... frummer ... frummer ... will bring in more and more of the big bucks. After all, this is their major fundraiser every 7 years!

  3. David - you cant really see the people across from you in a stadium. the other side is too far away for that.

  4. $250,000 is a small price to pay for an event whose sole purpose is to rain kavod upon Agudah and its Rabbonim. (If you think the purpose is to honor the daf yomi learners, I have a bridge to sell you.)

  5. Mark - women are encouraged to go because they are behind the men (no, not on the bus :-) ) as they push their husbands to go learn. having them there shows that they too deserve to be a part of the simcha

  6. What about the women who work hard all day and would prefer their husbands come home and help with the kids instead? Are they also invited?

    And how do you address the possibility (isn't it definite?) of some Gemara being learned at a siyum?

  7. Mark - it doesnt bother me, so I dont have to address it.. :-)

    they can just tell the women, or they probably expect the women, to not listen :-)

    As far as I can tell, everyone is invited. at least anyone who buys a ticket

  8. I don't recall such a thing at previous gatherings, e.g. an earlier siyum at Madison Square garden. So the question is why now? And why does it cost so much? What will it be made out of? A curtain alone would not suffice? Something else to consider - how will it play out in the media?

  9. I was at the previous siyum in Continental Airlines Arena where they had a huge mechitza constructed, and it was supposed to be used only at Mincha/Maariv, so it was lowered before Mincha and then after Mincha when they were raising it, it broke down half ways up. They apologized for the women in the upper seats whose view were obstructed due to the broken Mechitza. And yes, at Maarive there was no Mechitza...

    I think the whole Mechitza is only for Tefilah time, like last time. But I might be mistaken.

  10. Stop the Mechitza....and use the money appropriately where needed in yeshivos, day schools and for the unemployed.

    The women are not interested in coming especially with such a cost entailed.

  11. I think the whole Mechitza is only for Tefilah time, like last time. But I might be mistaken.

    I read that this mechitza is permanent (i.e. can't be moved during the event) and connected to the concrete walls. And it will be dismantled and the holes repaired after the event. That's what made it so expensive.

    The women are not interested in coming especially with such a cost entailed.

    I also read somewhere that there will be 20,000 seats for women. That seems like a lot to me!

  12. "I read that this mechitza is permanent (i.e. can't be moved during the event) and connected to the concrete walls. And it will be dismantled and the holes repaired after the event."

    That is the beams which will support the mechitza. The mechitza itself may be able to go up in down. In Continental Airlines Arena it was a large sheer black cloth that was the mechitza which was supposed to go into the ceiling after tefilah.


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