Winnipeg’s informal Jewish festival returns online
While it is now the second consecutive winter where Limmud, Winnipeg’s informal Jewish learning festival, has been forced online, organizers of the March 6 event anticipate an audience as excited, engaged and nearly as large as previous in-person renditions of the event.
The unique Limmud platform?? developed in Britain over 40 years ago and now active in over 40 countries around the world ?? invites presenters to lead educational sessions on a wide range of topics related to Jewish faith, history, culture, thought and Judaism in general.
Limmud presenters are not necessarily experts in their field. Rather, in keeping with the platform’s founding mantra that everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach, it’s more often than not individuals who simply have a curiosity, an affinity or self-taught knowledge of a particular subject. . That topic could be challah baking, menorah making, or a Jewish response to climate change. These can be refugee sponsorships, Yiddish folk tales, Jewish campus life, interfaith initiatives, or an analysis of the Song of Songs.
By deliberately focusing on a wide range of topics, Limmud conferences, wherever held, aim to attract as wide an audience as possible. The conference’s cross-community and cross-generational approach in turn helps broaden Jewish horizons, connect Jews from diverse backgrounds to one another, and strengthen Jewish identity.
“Limmud is an opportunity to exhibit Jewish subjects and animators, artists and thinkers, in an accessible, fun and exuberant style, ? says its program committee chair, Judi Shuster, who has helped organize the local Limmud festival for nine years.
??Our range this year,?? she adds, “am I extremely proud.”
This lineup includes several out-of-town and diverse personalities, including internationally acclaimed novelist Naomi Ragen, New York hip-hop artist Kosh Dilz, intergenerational trauma expert Merissa Nathan Gerson, and amateur genealogist Jerry Scherer. It also includes Toronto-based human rights activist Raheel Raza. Raza, the founder of the Council of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, will discuss best practices for combating anti-Semitism.
Participants interested in learning more about Holocaust-era provenance research may choose to attend the presentation given by Stephen Borys, Director and CEO of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Qaumajuq. Lovers of older artifacts might instead be drawn to University of Manitoba archaeologist anthropologist Haskel Greenfield’s discussion of Canaanite domestic rituals during the Early Bronze Age. Ancient history will also be at the heart of presentations given by local rabbis Allan Finkel and Yosef Benarroch.
As some of the one-day conference presentations are running concurrently?? and attendees can’t be in two sessions at once, even virtually?? all sessions will be recorded so that they can be viewed by members of the public at a later date.
The privilege of being able to enjoy a missed session at leisure is undoubtedly one of the advantages of the virtual festival, as is the fact that presenters and spectators can participate from anywhere in the world.
But Shuster acknowledges that she, and she assumes many other regular Limmud? attendees, remain nostalgic for the way things used to be.
??I really miss the hamish (warm) atmosphere of Limmud, the visits with friends, the discussions and the food,?? she admits.
This sentiment is echoed by Limmud’s new president, Tiffany Reider.
??I miss meeting and seeing everyone,?? she says. “It’s one of those events where you can get together and learn with friends you may not have seen in a while or make some new friends. Although you can still chat and see everyone world virtually, there’s just something about being able to discuss what you’ve just learned over coffee or lunch.
It’s true. But given that in March 2022 those in-person coffees and meetups won’t be possible, the Limmud Virtual Festival will still be doing what it’s been doing for years. It will educate and entertain, and it will remind presenters and attendees of the beauty, depth and diversity that make up Jewish life.
Sharon Chisvin is a writer from Winnipeg.