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Zumba leader Sharon Delbridge
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Faith Kaplan caught in the act of Zumbaing (note: photo was taken before Linder ran her wine tasting session at Limmud Just imagine what her Zumba prowess would have been after the wine tasting session.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Jonathon Kroft, former President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg did not attend the Zumba session ,but in all likelihood should have based on this photo
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Zumba Participants who fainted from exhaustion (Readers are welcome to send in their guesses as to who is pictured in this photo)
Photo by Rhonda Spivak


By Rhonda Spivak, April 13, 2011

The first Limmud Festival of Jewish Learning organized by the Jewish Federation and the Rady JCC was one of the best community programs I have ever been to—hands down. It is a program that I can easily see as only growing in the future, and I am pleased to endorse it, and whole heartedly recommend that those who didn’t attend it this year mark it in their agenda for next year.

Let me list off the key elements.  Firstly, the attendance of 350 people was a very impressive number, especially for a “pilot” program.  It showed that there is an interest in creative and engaging Jewish programming, with an array of both  out of town and in town speakers. As an editor, I attend many Jewish programs in the community, and this one stood out for the fact that there were a lot of young people.  I have been to many a program where the absence of the younger generation is noticeable and disappointing. That was not the case here—and that in and of itself made the program a remarkable success in my view. That’s not to say that there weren’t participants of all ages, because there were.

The fact that Limmud gave  a wide range of options for participants to cultivate their  Jewish identity is a winning recipe—everyone has a way of connecting to Judaism, be it through religion, interpretation of  texts, culture, politics,  music, dance or food.  Limmud offered it all, giving participants a way to nourish their Jewish identity. There were lectures that I missed that I would have liked to attend, but it is better to leave people wanting more than less.

The havdalah service at he beginning, which was beautifully done and the reception after the first session on Saturday night was also well thought out. It gave a sense of overall community to the event, and offered a chance for participants to mingle and  feel like they were at a convention. I did not have the opportunity to attend the session run by Dubi Shlenger  entitled a “ Taste of  Israeli Techina” but I did have an opportunity to sample some of  his gourmet fixings at the  reception with hummus and olive spread and they were delicious. Dubi, I offer you my kitchen any day of the week—I am happy to leave you a key to my home in my mailbox for you and you are most welcome to come and cook until your heart's content, as long as you promise to leave all of your entrees  on the premises.

What follows is an overview of the three sessions I attended (not including the one that I led on Israeli-Jordanian relations in light of the upheaval in Egypt)

Zumba  Dance Party Israeli Style—I  wandered into this session rather accidentally  thinking it was some sort of regular aerobics class that Rady was putting on. Then I realized that everyone in the room was participating in Limmud. I had no idea what Zumba was, but thought there might be a good photo opportunity when I saw people twirling around. Before I knew it I was captured by the energetic Israeli music and the contagious steps (if truth be known—I had no idea what the steps were but I placed my self strategically between the Linder ladies (Faith and Dini) and tried to do a little of this and that, and when I couldn’t keep up with the steps I began doing the steps to the “bus stop” which is the only group dance that I know aside from Hava Nagilla .  In any event, I “ Zumb-ad  and Bamb-ad and Rumb-ad” until before I knew it I thought the Messiah was coming!  I had to cut  the session short when  I  realized I was working up a sweat, (not what I had planned on since a few minutes later I was supposed to lead my session and didn’t want to do so  while having a disagreeable odor). I bowed out of the rest of the Zumbaing and then spent my time trying to get a photo of  Zumba instructor  Sharon Delbridge, (nee: Fink), but she was Zumbaing too quickly for my photographic skills.(see photo).

Y Love— I don’t know what Y Love’s real name (and he probably is an X-Love to someone)—but I think he’d be a great guest to invite to your next simcha.   He’s an expert in hip hop—needless to say I know nothing about hip hop—the bunny hop being the only hop I’ve ever done.  But he did seem like he was ‘hop to trop’, and although I couldn’t make out any of the words to his songs, I am sure there was some Jewish content to them. I did notice that his session on Sunday afternoon was full.

But after doing a seach on the internet, I learned that Y-Love’s name is Yitz Jordan, and he was born to non-Jewish parents in the United States,  converted and came to Israel to study in Ohr Somayach yeshiva in Jerusalem.

In yeshiva, his study partner began reciting verses from the Gemara to a beat, as a way of making them easier to learn.  That’s when Jordan got the idea of rapping Jewish rhymes, and the novel approach made the Gemara lessons stick. Y-Love believes rap is one way to enable Jewish youth to connect to their Judaism.

Y-Love was interested in Judaism from childhood and  started wearing a kippah and tzitzit (skullcap and prayer shawl) at age 14.  He began his conversion process in Brooklyn, New York. His Puerto Rican grandmother was the only other member of his family to take an interest in the Jewish religious and bought him a menorah and chumash, as he progressed in his learning.

Lisa Alkalay Klug - I heard her session on the Saturday evening of Limmud, which attracted a large crowd that almost filled the Bernie Theatre. Klug, an award winning journalist is an entertaining speaker, who has written a book that decodes contemporary Judaism and its hippest forms of cultural and creative expression.  Klug’s trendy book is entitled Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $12.99), and it is a field manual for Jewish cultural life.  During her fun and relatively light lecture Klug played some samples of Jewish music—my personal favourite was a song entitled “Havana Cuba” instead of ”Hava Nagila."

Klug spoke about celebrating Jewish life and culture and had fun with lots of Jewish puns— Jew Got Questions, Jew Need Answers, and what about  JewTube ( instead of YouTube),—it reminded me of silly word games  we used to play  at Camp Massad.

Klug is the daughter of an Ashkenazi Holocaust survivor and the descendant of a Sephardic chief rabbi of Sarajevo. Klug’s book which is about having pride in and celebrating your Judaism arguably is very suited for a Winnipeg audience.  Afterall, anyone who survives Winnipeg winters really is a Cool Jew.

The humourous book explores the trends of contemporary Jewish music (including the music of Matisyahu and Y-Love), identity, rituals, clothing, cuisine to holidays , spirituality, diversity and language. There are original illustrations by artist Amos Goldbaum with all sorts of historical pieces, album covers, Kabbalistic paintings, pop Judaica and more. Cool Jew is designed to bring out the “Heeb’ in you and celebrate your Super Jewish self.

In her lecture Klug mentioned a variety of  interesting Jewish trivia—for example, I learned that the  creators of the Curious George  (I spent many a night reading Curious George books to my kids) are in fact Jewish-a piece of trivia I had not known.

Klug spent several years studying in Israel and has visited hundreds of destinations as a travel writer for Fodor’s, Forbes Best of the Web, New York Jewish Week, Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Jerusalem Post, Forward, The Baltimore Sun, Men’s Fitness and other outlets.

Overall, even though some of the time I had “no klug” what she was talking about, I enjoyed the lecture.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.