By Michele Doctoroff
(AJNews) – I cannot think of anywhere I would rather be on a chilly March weekend than in the warmth of the Winnipeg Jewish community. This year’s virtual program made it even easier to be a part of the exciting day.
For the past 12 years Limmud Winnipeg has celebrated Jewish thought and culture in an affordable and accessible way. With the Asper Foundation as a major sponsor amongst others, Limmud Winnipeg is dedicated to exploring Jewish thought and experiences in all its variety, capturing energy and ideas from across the Jewish world.
The Limmud model, volunteer driven, began in the UK in the 1980s. Limmud now reaches over 97 communities in 43 countries. My involvement began in 2018 in Winnipeg as a participant and has grown as a presenter, liaison for Calgary referring local speakers, and in the past organizing a Calgary delegation to attend a great weekend away.
Sunday, March 6 brought community together to hear from a choice of 20 speakers. The biggest tsoire was deciding which talks to attend. In addition to the sessions described below, options included Talmud, Pride, genealogy, Israel, Zionism, Jewish social media, Klezmer, Jewish response to grief, Israel at Eurovision, Jewish texts, finding Nazi-looted artwork, Lashon Hara, and Mussar – there was something for everyone.
Marnie Bondar, a Holocaust Educator from Calgary gave a talk called My Babi Freda and her Story of Surviving Auschwitz. The tight bond between Freda, OBM, and Marnie was evident in Marnie’s every breath as she recounted Freda’s survival and heroism. Standing up to intolerance and discrimination has empowered both women as community leaders. Marnie’s heartfelt presentation brought tears to our eyes as we experienced Freda’s painful journey. We emerged with deep pride in our hearts, imagining Freda kvelling as Marnie honoured her spirit and family legacy.
Finding Love and the Jewish Community in Nigeria brought participants to a second Calgary connection through Rabbi Moshe Saks, formerly of the Beth Tzedec Congregation, and currently Spiritual Leader of the Israel Center for Conservative Judaism in Queens NY. His daughter Eliana Saks is engaged to a Nigerian Jew, Moshe Nwafor, a community leader in the small but thriving Jewish community in Abuja. Moshe’s brother-in-law, Ugochukwi Nnaji, joined the trio in recounting the fascinating story and sharing delightful photos of the Igbo tribe’s 94 halachic Jewish Conversions, 10 marriages under the chuppah, and how a special love blossomed. Life offers opportunities we sometimes cannot imagine, and the Saks family taught us how to bring passion and openness to following our heart.
My First Sequel offered another fascinating speaker, easily accessible in virtual times. Naomi Ragen, best-selling author, playwright, and journalist joined Limmud from Jerusalem. Naomi was one of the first to write fiction about the ultra-Orthodox world, exposing some dark spaces. She shared how she faced varied responses, from disgruntled insiders feeling that she violated an unspoken code, to deep appreciation of her fictional exploration of rich, complex, and balanced material. Naomi recalled that as a young child, she found comfort from books when facing sadness, and now readers reach out to her in gratitude for the comfort she offers them.
Limmud, as a forum for all ages brought Kosha Dillz into our living rooms with Going Viral for Good. Kosha Dillz, born Rami Matan Even-Esh shared his emergence from serving jail time to becoming a world-renowned hip-hop rapper. Working with Matisyahu, Nissim Black, and landing a coveted Super Bowl commercial spot, Dillz embraces his Jewish identity and inspires today’s youth with powerful messages of hope and happiness.
Through Tracing Memory: A Process Art Workshop “talented artist Halley Ritter provided a lovely, guided, and gentle forum to delve into memory, which provided participants a safe space to be pensive about their own personal and family memories. What a wonderful experience she provided,” shared participant Becky Kaufmann. Halley, who is also a curator, left participants feeling that the upcoming generation of Jewish leadership is well on its way to deep understanding and creativity.
Florencia Katz, Limmud Winnipeg Coordinator concluded: “It’s so wonderful to see our community plus out-of-town attendees from across Canada, US and Israel come together for a day of learning…We’re lucky to have an amazing committee of volunteers that put so much time, effort, and passion into planning an enriching day of Jewish learning!”
The wish is to again bring learners and speakers together in-person next year; there’s nothing like bumping into old and new friends in the hall, and of course enjoying the incredible dessert table laden with Winnipeg’s famous shmoo torte and other geshmacke delicacies. For Albertans who have never experienced the Winnipeg dessert table, there is nothing quite like it.
Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to stay informed of upcoming Limmud opportunities as a presenter or participant, or visit Limmud Winnipeg at www.limmudwinnipeg.org