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After Almost 40 Years, Long Island Congregation Nearly Finished Studying Entire Jewish Bible

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A Jewish congregation on Long Island has nearly accomplished something very rare -- the in-depth study of the complete Jewish bible, which contains hundreds of chapters and is thousands of pages long.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday, the task took almost 40 years.

In the beginning, there was Eleanor Goldman enrolling in a bible course. Her Torah study is now nearly complete, 38 1/2 years later.

"It's overwhelming, you know, to look back and say, my goodness, it's that many years," Goldman said.

A hearty "mazel tov" is in order for now 93-year-old Goldman and fellow East Meadow Beth-El Jewish Center members for having achieved such a monumental milestone.

Rabbi Ronald Androphy launched the weekly class in 1983, beginning with "Genesis" until "Books of Chronicles." Three dozen students have completed the rare comprehensive study of what's called the "Tanach."

"I don't know of any other congregation that has embarked upon the study of the entire bible in a thorough fashion," Androphy said.

Jewish bible study
(Photo: CBS2)

There are thirty-nine books with 929 chapters, and thousands of verses. Sandra Herman joined in 1984, slowly analyzing every sentence.

"We actually got through the whole book, except that I missed 'Genesis,' I missed the first year," Herman said. "You can understand why it's so universal and so pertinent today. It's an amazing book. What other book has lasted this long?"

Androphy would introduce music, art, maps, and archeology to add context.

"In Judaism we believe that study goes on endlessly," Androphy said. "It adds tremendous meaning to our lives. We gain keen insight into the imperatives of being Jewish, which include to perform acts of justice and righteousness, to act with kindness and respect towards all people."

To put it into perspective, synagogues spend a year reciting the five books of "Moses." This study group completed the other 34 books of ancient scripture, more than 2,000 pages debated, discussed, and dissected for decades.

"I called it mental gymnastics," Goldman said. "I remember saying to the rabbi after I don't know how many years that I hoped that I can live long enough to finish and I only have another two weeks to worry about."

The pandemic didn't stop them. Thursday night meetings went virtual. Next Thursday, the feat will be complete, but the studying continues to post biblical writings.

The rabbi encourages his students to celebrate with some ceremonial wine and a "l'chaim," a toast to life and the joy of lifelong learning.

The group studied the English translation of the Hebrew bible, but also analyzed the different interpretations of the Hebrew words.

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