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Benji Aziza leading a packed session at Limmud
All photos by Manny Sousa

Prof. Ira Robinson

Rabbi Alan Green

Avi Dolgan


Jane Enkin


by Jane Enkin, March 28, 2015





The atmosphere at Winnipeg's Limmud 2015 was typically warm and energetic – buzzing in the hallways, conversations at the ample snack table, consultations about how to choose from a huge array of study topics. As the day closed, happy friends displayed their art projects – delicately painted keepahs (workshop taught by Yael Borovich and Channah Greenfield), symbols of peace and fruitfulness worked in clay (workshop taught by Tzafi Weinberg), and “stained glass windows” (children's workshop taught by Lauren Tennenhouse) as they compared notes on the day's adventures in learning. A wonderful team of volunteers, with great support from Federation  staff, made it all happen.





Here is my report on just a few of the many sessions:



Professor Ira Robinson, of Concordia University in Montreal, presented on Religious Life in Mainstream Israel. Jewish Israel, he explains, is usually viewed from two extremes, both very small percentages of the population: the very traditional, very religious minority and the anti-religious minority. “Where do we hear about the haredi 5%? From the anti-religious 5%! Who is talking about the middle? Me!” This set the tone for a light-hearted presentation of detailed research.





Robinson looks at Israel as a place where democracy and tradition are in creative tension, and individualism is balanced with a collective culture. “Middle Israel” is not committed to Jewish law, and in general is uncomfortable with coercion, and yet keeps cultural Jewish traditions.


Most Jews in Israel live lives that are influenced by Jewish practise. On Friday night, it “feels right” to have a family-style meal and make a blessing over wine. On Saturday, it “feels right” to take a day off work – some people might head straight for the beach, others might go to synagogue in the morning and the shopping mall in the afternoon.


And on Yom Kippur, nobody drives. For many Israelis this has nothing to do with God, or repentance, or Jewish law. “And if you tried to make it civil law, there would be resistance,” said Robinson. It is a grassroots consensus. I asked my sister about this a few days later, and she confirmed that the sound of Yom Kippur is a beautiful one, a quiet day in the middle of usually bustling cities.


The sound you will hear, though, is wheels – lots of strollers, but most especially, bikes. Yom Kippur has become the day to give kids their first bicycle lesson in Israeli cities, so much so that stores advertise Yom Kippur bike sales in the weeks before the holiday. With lower carbon-emissions, Yom Kippur has also become the “Green holiday” of Israel.


Robinson concluded by explaining that Jews in Israel find their world is shaped by the Jewish calendar, Jewish rhythms and Jewish customs.






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