When people think of pulling an all-nighter to study, it’s probably in the context of a harrowing memory from their university days.
But this Shavuot, the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (MNJCC) in downtown Toronto is inviting people to learn all night in celebration.
Tikkun Leil Shavuot: Jewish Learning Festival will take place from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. starting on Saturday, June 8, the first night of Shavuot.
The expected 700-plus attendees will have the chance to see and participate in over 50 lectures, panels and classes from 75 presenters, all without paying a penny.
“It’s really the crown jewel of our programmatic year because everyone comes together and everyone contributes, it’s this huge community effort (and) the most amazing thing I think we do here,” said Lauren Schreiber, downtown Jewish life coordinator at the MNJCC, who is running the event.
This is the program’s 11th year, and the first time Schreiber attended, she recognized it as a display of the strength and diversity of the local Jewish community.
“I remember looking around and thinking, ‘I didn’t know there was this many Jews in Toronto who would want to stay up all night talking about it,’ ” she said.
“It has this incredible energy because this is grownups who are excited to stay up all night. It’s like the original Jewish rave.”
Schreiber is excited about the program in its entirety, but there are a few lectures and panels that she feels will really tap into the cultural zeitgeist.
There is a lecture on Jewish sign language by Arthur Gunter, and another from University of Toronto professor Judith Taylor on Jewish women, politics and how Jews can be shamed for their Jewishness in mainstream society.
Schreiber also expects American-Israeli businessman and author Tal Keinan’s talk to be popular. Keinan will actually begin the evening speaking at Beth Tikvah Synagogue (3080 Bayview Ave.) before joining the tikkun.
In terms of panels, Schreiber pointed to an interfaith one about sanctity and queer identity; a panel called the “Jewish Food Bracket,” where participants will try to narrow down the ultimate Jewish food in honour of the website Nosher’s attempt to do the same; and another called “Streaming Jews: Watch My People’s Shows,” about this current golden age of Jewish television (check out last week’s cover story by Michael Fraiman about the same topic!)
Even with the round-the-clock learning opportunities, Schreiber knows it can be hard to stay energized through the whole night. That’s why there will be rooms for naps and meditation, childcare, a choir, a chevruta room, Yiddish and Hebrew sessions, and plenty of food “because you can’t have a Jewish event without food, right?” Schreiber asked.
One treat that will be offered: cheesecake at a Yiddish literature salon like the ones that were held in 1920s Montreal.
Because the event falls on a holiday, “none of the presenters can use electronics, we don’t take any pictures, we don’t do any recordings, and it’s as if it exists in a dream because there’s nothing tangible,” Schreiber said.
Perhaps the dreamiest part of the event will be the sunrise ceremony on the roof to end it, followed by morning services. Just don’t ask Schreiber what that’s like because she has yet to make it that far. The latest she’s managed to stay up has been 4:30 a.m.
Schreiber believes the fatigue will be worth it.
“This is such a big event, and so important to so many people,” she said. “Everybody who knows, knows, but there are people for whom this could be eye-opening and who maybe don’t know that this exists, and my goal is to get it to those people this year.”