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Penny Jones Square: Repairing the World: A Reflection on Limmud's Festival of Jewish Learning-Sessions with Benji Aziza, David Greaves, Avi Dolgin and Rabbi Sid Shwarz

by Penny Jones Square, March 22, 2015



Repairing the World: A Reflection on Limmud Winnipeg’s 2015 Festival of Jewish Learning







We live by the conviction that acts of goodness reflect the hidden light of His holiness. . . . It is within our power to mirror His unending love in deeds of kindness, like brooks that hold the sky.

—Abraham Joshua Heschel









In reflecting on my experience of this year’s celebration of Jewish learning, I was struck by the reiteration of the theme of tikkun olam—repairing the world—as it was expressed in a number of the sessions I attended. Devotion to social justice, to healing the world, is the heart of Judaism, born of the covenantal command to be “a holy people,” “a light unto the nations.” In assuming this task to advance “the drama of redemption” for humanity, to use Abraham Joshua Heschel’s words, by being an example of righteousness, the Jews have taken on a thankless job. The all-too-human reluctance to strive for perfection, and the attendant resentment of those who do, has made the Jews, again to quote Heschel, “the most challenged people under the sun.” As he puts it, the Jews’ “existence is either superfluous or indispensable to the world; it is either tragic or holy to be a Jew.” Benji Aziza’s moving description of his service as a medic treating wounded Syrians, “Not your Average Rosh Hashanah: My Experience Treating Syrian Refugees at the IDF Field Hospital,” David Greaves’ emotional account of his volunteer service with children undergoing daily rocket attacks in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, “Stepping out of the Box and into the Bomb Shelter,” Avi Dolgin’s channeling the reluctant and stubborn prophet Jonah to warn each of us of the need to repair our souls and the world, “Yonah ben Amitai & Co.,” and Rabbi Sid Schwarz’s explanation of how the defining values and ideals of Judaism drive the Jewish commitment to social justice, which in turn can revitalize the Jewish community, “Can Social Justice Save the Jewish Soul?,” all speak to the indispensability of the Jews. Each of these speakers has played his part in redeeming the world, in extending the reach of righteousness and justice in the world by acts of goodness and compassion.








Before going into the story of his service at a secret field hospital where the Israeli army was treating wounded Syrians fleeing the civil war, Benji Aziza showed a short film, Close Up: Paramedic on the Syrian Border, about Noga, a young female paramedic. Noga summarized her service simply as the fulfillment of her oath: “I will always be my brother’s keeper,” adding, “And that brother is everyone.” Her humility was as remarkable as her understated courage: “I really don’t feel special because I have this role because if it wasn’t me, it would be someone else. It really could be anyone. I really don’t know why you are making a movie about me.” Though extraordinary, to Noga, her dedication to a universal s

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