With the countdown to the twelfth Siyum HaShas of Daf Yomi now down to the single digits, organizers of the event are working furiously to ensure that the massive event, for which all 93,000 available tickets have been sold, goes off without a hitch.
Logistical preparations for an event of this magnitude might seem daunting to some, but for Rabbi Yosef C. Golding, executive director of Rofeh Cholim Cancer Society (RCCS) and director of logistics for the Siyum HaShas, it is all in a day’s work.
“Because we started working on this event so long ago, it was all pretty easy,” said Rabbi Golding, a veteran coordinator for the Siyum HaShas, taking place on Wednesday, August 1. “I have been working on this siyum for two years. The past week or two has been a little intense, but we do the best we can.”
MetLife Stadium, which opened in 2010, is not only the most expensive NFL stadium ever built, it also has the largest number of permanent seats in the league with a capacity of 82,566. Transforming MetLife Stadium from a football arena into a venue for a massive Torah gathering is no small undertaking. In addition to bringing in approximately 10,000 folding chairs for the event and removing the goalposts, hard plastic flooring will be brought in, completely covering the stadium’s turf with its distinctive markings. While the stadium boasts the highest quality sound system, a separate sound company has been brought in for the event, one that, according to Rabbi Golding, has been used at some of the largest rock concerts throughout the country.
Much discussion has been made about the $250,000 mechitzah being installed. Previous plans to place all the women at one of the narrower ends of the oval stadium, with supports drilled into the stadium to hold up the gargantuan mechitzah, have been scrapped. Instead, women who do not have tickets for one of the over two hundred luxury suites, will be seated in the upper deck of the stadium, with a four tier dark colored curtain, ranging in length from eight to twelve feet, moving into place only during davening. It will take a crew of 60 people, working from Tisha B’av through the actual day of the siyum, to erect the two and a half mile long mechitzah.
“This mechitzah was designed by a crew of engineers and will be held in place by massive weights,” explained Rabbi Golding. “There will be no need to drill any supports into any part of the stadium at all. This is a very strong pipe and drape system, with a lightweight curtain that allows the wind to pass through and the mechitzah has been approved by the fire department.”
The decision to move the women to the upper level was made for logistical reasons, according to Rabbi Golding, who was quick to assure female attendees that being placed in the upper echelons of the stadium would not in any way detract from their enjoyment of the milestone event, noting that viewers in the top tier of the stadium would have the best view of the four 116-foot-wide high definition video screens that hang in each corner of the upper deck.
“You have to understand that there is not a bad seat in the house here, although we are working hard to place the women who ordered more costly seats in the first four rows of the upper level,” noted Rabbi Golding. “They spent $1.7 billion to build this stadium and whoever built this facility really built it right.”
In fact, the stadium itself is home to a command center, featuring hundreds of security cameras, a mini emergency room and has 40 medics and nurses on call, which will be supplemented for the Siyum HaShas by 150 Hatzalah members, as well as a minimum of 20 ambulances. Two-thousand plasma screens located throughout the interior portions of the stadium will give those who leave their seats the ability to follow the program from locations within the venue.
Stadium concessionaires will be selling snacks whose kashrus has been approved by the Agudah, including cakes, ices, soda and water. While food can be brought into the stadium in bags no larger than 12 by 12 by 12 inches, siyum attendees will only be permitted to bring one plastic, 20-ounce, sealed beverage into the stadium with them. Laptops and iPads will not be permitted into MetLife stadium, and given the extremely tight security that is expected for the Siyum HaShas, every person entering the stadium will be searched.