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Jane Enkin Reviews Limmud 2017

by Jane Enkin

Jane Enkin Music and Story at


Once again, a hard-working group of organizers and volunteers put together a great day of Jewish learning.  With a great selection of presentations, each person chooses their own Limmud experience. There were text-based sessions, participatory arts experiences, performances and sessions about pressing personal and political issues, as well as a children’s program. This year out-of-town guest teachers included Torah educator Rivy Kletenik, substance abuse counsellor Carli Rothman, musicians Rock the Shtetl and long-time Winnipeggers Carol Rose and Rabbi Neal Rose.  I chose to learn with local presenters. 


In the first time slot on Sunday,  I presented along with Susan Palmer on the theme Where Are the Women? A Look at Stories from Jewish Folk Traditions. I told folktales from Ashkenazi, Yemenite, and Iraqi Jewish traditions. After each story, susn led a lively discussion with lots of fascinating, very personal contributions from the group.  We heard about the ways challah, in several families, became an important symbol of caring.  Several participants affirmed the importance of individual approaches to spirituality, finding a rabbi in an Ashkenazi tale who insists on the rule-book to be oppressive, or at the very least unintentionally hurtful. We considered the roles of women and men in a family and community during childbirth.  In the Yemenite story, a very traditional man feels trapped when he needs to walk through the “women’s territory” of the birthplace to get to synagogue, so the midwife picks him up and lifts him out the door, prompting the delightful theory from a participant that she became the midwife not only to the baby, but also to the father.


After the emphasis on listening and receiving personal stories in our session, I changed my plans for my second experience of the day.  I skipped Rabbi Larry Lander’s teaching on the Rebbe of Kotsk and went to hear Edith Kimelman’s  very personal memoir Stories of a Holocaust Survivor.   Kimelman was a little girl in 1941 when she sensed that something was wrong for Jews in Ukraine, while her parents continued to reassure her, “Everything will be all right.”  Since the family had made it through pogroms and persecution over the centuries, they did not realize the scale of what they were facing. Changes came quickly – one day their home was plundered; the next day she saw her Ukrainian school friends dressed in her clothes. Though the family faced many dangers, Kimelman told us of the brave helpers who hid them, fed them and transported them to safer places. Although Kimelman and some members of her family survived, she is always aware of the way her adult life has been shaped by her youth – her difficulty in feeling trust, her “overprotective” feelings about her children – “I will never know what normal is.” She told us “My mind is never at rest…  it’s not sediment, it doesn’t settle down.” She is a superb storyteller; she skillfully recreated for us the experience of a young girl watching her familiar world crumble, while often clarifying events from an adult perspective. Kimelman emphasized the indelible damage of the childhood experience of war, but also left us admiring her resilience, the career and family life she made for herself, and her generosity in helping us to witness and remember with her.


Steven Hyman chose for his text-study the provocative title, If I Am So Smart, Why is My Neighbour so Foolish: When Popular Thought Challenges Jewish Values.  His main topic was attitudes toward refugees, and his argument was that Torah and later Jewish sources place a strong value on tzedakah (the obligation of righteous giving), love of others and welcoming the stranger.  Although in

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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