Jacky Levy debuts new play about life of Rabbi Riskin
Jacky Levy debuts new play about life of Rabbi RiskinGershon Elinson

A celebration of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s lifetime of achievement was launched this week with the debut of a one-man play developed and performed by renowned Israeli personality Jacky Levy, the first in a series of events designed to inform the next generation about Rabbi Riskin’s legacy and impact.

The educational initiative goes hand in hand with the Sefer Torah dedication in honor of Rabbi Riskin to take place in the USA and in Israel.

“The Man and the Legend: Stories of Rabbi Riskin,” created by renowned Israeli actor and comedian Jacky Levy, is based upon the life of Ohr Torah Stone (OTS) founder, chancellor emeritus and dean, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. The play’s first showing kicked off a season of trans-Atlantic celebrations in advance of Rabbi Riskin’s 80th birthday this spring.

“Rabbi Riskin’s contributions to Israel and world Jewry over the course of the past five decades have been instrumental in shaping today’s Orthodox society,” said President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander. “Today, we are building upon the foundation that he has prepared for us.”

A celebration of admiration, affection and appreciation

On Wednesday evening, December 10 at the annual OTS Dinner in Manhattan, OTS will complete, dedicate and dance with a Sefer Torah written in Rabbi Riskin’s honor. The Torah will be brought afterward to Israel, where there will be another hachnasat Sefer Torah celebration featuring festivities in both Efrat and Jerusalem, as the scroll is brought to its final home at Midreshet Lindenbaum women’s college.

“I am especially proud that this Sefer Torah will go to Midreshet Lindenbaum,” Rabbi Riskin related. “One of my profound convictions remains the fact that teaching Torah – and especially the Oral Torah of the Sages, the Talmud and its commentaries – to women, 51% of our Jewish population, is critical to our post-holocaust generation.”

Making a difference

Alongside the festivities, a special educational curricula has been produced for students and educators within the OTS network. Based upon Rabbi Riskin’s teachings, the educational units cover subjects such as “keeping mitzvot,” “What is a dilemma?” “Everything is a matter of interpretation,” “Dreams,” and more.

Only after learning about the man who founded and cultivated the institution in which they are learning will the students see the one-man “Man and the Legend” show by Jacky Levy.

“My name is Jacky, and I have for the past two months been eating, drinking and sleeping Rabbi Riskin,” said Levy during the play.

“I dream Rabbi Riskin at night and I am breaking my head trying to figure out how to tell all of his incredible stories – and even more so, how to decide which to leave out. This is what I do for a living; I tell stories.”

“But this particular story, well, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to tell it is backward, from the point of view of the person whose life Rabbi Riskin touched, and you know why? Because I myself still cannot understand how he did it. There are so many stories with a positive ending but which don’t begin to explain how he was always able to find an answer. And the fact that he keeps it a secret from us is a good thing,” he continued. “Because it gives each and every one of us the chance to say to ourselves that we too have the capacity to change the world – or at least the little piece of the world that we inhabit – with a bit of faith, a bit of goodwill, the right educators and parents, and a lot of humor – we can make a difference.”

“I am extremely humbled and moved that students, friends and supporters of Ohr Torah Stone have partnered in this wonderful gift,” said Rabbi Riskin. “I have always viewed my positions of Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva as a privilege, as well as a responsibility, to impart our sacred Torah to the next generation. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening to the Torah that I have taught over the years, and for working together to give overlooked or marginalized populations a chance to learn and teach their Torah as well, thus enriching us all and bringing the entire Jewish nation closer to God.”