Diversity and inclusion are among the themes of the Winnipeg Jewish community’s eighth annual Limmud Winnipeg festival, which runs from March 10 to 11.
“We have tried to have something for everyone to draw the largest number of people,” says Judi Shuster, one of three Limmud chairs. “In every time slot, there are six or more options.”
One of the out-of-town presenters that Shuster singled out is transgender Rabbi Micah Buck-Yael, who will be speaking about “Gender Diversity in Jewish Texts” and “Sacred Language for Diversity and Inclusion.”
Originally from Washington, D.C., Buck-Yael earned a BA in Jewish, Islamic and Near Eastern studies at Washington University and graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York with a rabbinic ordination, an MA in Talmud and rabbinic literature, and a certificate in pastoral care and counselling. He currently serves as the co-ordinator of community chaplaincy with the Jewish Family & Children’s Service in St. Louis. He also works as an advocate and educator on LGBTQ issues.
Buck-Yael will also be the keynote speaker at the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s first Diversity and Inclusion in the Jewish Community conference on March 12.
Two other presenters, Michael Rubenfled and Katka Reszke, will be in town for Limmud and will also be starring in the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s production of We Keep Coming Back, which will be staged at the festival on March 10.
We Keep Coming Back is the story of a mother and son who are descendants of Polish Holocaust survivors and decide to return to Poland, in the hopes of finding their lost identity and reconnecting with each other.
At Limmud, Reszke will be talking about her journey to Judaism, while Rubenfeld will be talking about his quest to discover more about his Polish-Jewish roots.
Rubenfeld, who splits his time between Toronto and Warsaw, has become a prolific performer and playwright who has worked throughout North America and Europe.
Also appearing will be internationally known storyteller Peninnah Schram, the author of 13 books of Jewish folktales, including Jewish Stories One Generation Tells Another and Stories within Stories: From the Jewish Oral Tradition.
In Winnipeg, Schram will be doing two presentations. In “Jewish Stories One Generation Tells Another,” Schram will be interweaving folktales ofrom both Sephardic and Ashkenazic oral traditions. “What’s in a Name: a Storytelling Workshop on Names” will explore the many meanings and blessings that our names carry in various traditions – and how names can shape our lives and our personalities.
In addition to the out-of-town presenters, Limmud participants will have the option of hearing from virtually all of the community’s rabbis and hazzans, as well as from younger people in the community and others who will talk about global Jewish issues, Judaism and spirituality, music and local topics. There will be numerous workshops, including many geared toward children, such as Sephardic cooking, Kiddush Cup painting and juggling.
“We are hoping to have a larger number of younger adults and teens,” Shuster says.
She reports that attendance last year was about 450. As of the end of February, 275 early bird passes had been sold. “We usually get a lot of people deciding at the last minute,” she adds.
Among the communal sponsors for Limmud Winnipeg are the Asper Foundation (the major sponsor), the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Chesed Shel Emes, Congregation Etz Chayim, the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, the Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Synagogue and Temple Shalom.