This year, Limmud Winnipeg – which took place this past weekend – had a few new wrinkles.
“We are trying to attract more younger people, as well as Gray Academy students,” says Judi Shuster, one of three chairs this year of Limmud, which marked its sixth year.
To that end, Limmud Winnipeg featured among its 36 speakers Barry Bender, an American Jewish educator who is well known to students and graduates of Gray Academy, Winnipeg’s kindergarten-to-Grade 12 Jewish day school.
For the past 30 years and more, Bender has been coming to Winnipeg from New York every January to lead a Jewish awareness retreat for Gray Academy high school students. At Limmud, he did presentations on Jewish meditation and “Judaism, science and the first seven days of Creation.”
Winnipeg rapper Jeremy Hecht and Andrew Lustig, an American “Jewish spoken word artist” whose poetry on Jewish and Israeli identity has reached millions on YouTube and in live performances, also appeared.
And there were also performances by the homegrown Dor Chadash and Yona Youth choirs, and Gray Academy’s Yiddish students.
Shuster said musical performances took place during all breaks between sessions this year.
Music and humour was the focus of presentations by local chazzans Michael Eskin and Len Udow, musicians Eli Herscovitch and Phil Spevack and stand-up comic Renee Billauer.
And in another enhancement this year, Limmud participants were able for the first time to get a discount on tickets for an upcoming presentation by the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, So, Nu?. WJT executive director Ari Weinberg was also one of the Limmud presenters.
Including Lustig and Bender, Winnipeg Limmud featured eight out-of-town presenters. One of the many headliners from this group was James Wilets. Currently a law professor at Nova Southeastern University and chair of the Inter-American Center for Human Rights, the Yale graduate and former Yale professor prepared, at the request of the UN secretary general, the first two drafts of a proposal for reforming the human rights functions of the United Nations, which was subsequently incorporated into the UN’s Agenda for Peace.
He has also worked as an attorney for the International Human Rights Law Group’s Rule of Law Project in Romania and worked in Paris on some of the first discussions between Israelis and Palestinians on a two-state solution. As well, while at Yale, Wilets worked with a team of academics drafting a proposed basic law for a future Palestinian state.
Other prominent out-of-town speakers included Sandra Lilienthal, a South Florida educator who was a 2015 winner of the Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education; New Yorker Scott Shay, past chair of the New York federation’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal and the author of Getting Our Groove Back: How to Energize American Jewry; Gary Kenzer, North American executive director of Honest Reporting.com; and former Winnipeggers Benjamin Shinewald, former CEO of Canadian Jewish Congress, and Bryan Borzykowski, an award-winning business journalist.
“We are trying to reach out to as many people as we can,” said Shuster. “I have spoken to a number of people who have never attended Limmud because they thought it was just for religious people and Torah study. We offer something for everyone, and we have an amazing group of speakers.”
Among the event’s communal sponsors are the Asper Foundation (the major sponsor), the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, the Chesed Shel Emes funeral home, Congregation Etz Chayim, Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Synagogue and Temple Shalom.