More than 250 people converged on the Soloway Jewish Community, November 2, to spend their Sunday immersed in a variety of Jewish topics at the Limmud Ottawa conference.
The event was sanctioned by Limmud International, a 30-year-old international organization, based in the United Kingdom, whose goal is to strengthen Jewish identity free from politics, hierarchy and denominational bias.
All opinions and interests are welcome at Limmud, with the exception of “anti-Israel propaganda,” said Limmud Ottawa organizer Jenny Roberge.
“It’s to create a community of learners,” she said. “It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the diversities within any Jewish community at any given time.”
One of the unique aspects of Limmud is the hosting of simultaneous panels and sessions in order to force people to make a choice about what they want to learn, and where instructors are participants and vice versa, she said.
Diversity of opinions at Limmud is encouraged, with this year’s topics ranging from media bias, and the naval blockade of Gaza, to Jewish feminism, and whether Satan is a misunderstood character in theology.
Fred Litwin of the Ottawa-based Free Thinking Film Society presented his documentary about bias against Israel in the media, specifically in CBC reporting.
The compilation of a selection of the national public broadcaster’s television and radio clips was underscored with Litwin’s commentary in the form of captions throughout the video, which drew varying reactions from the session participants.
“It’s very hard to document bias,” Litwin said. “Part of the problem is the rolodex of experts and commentators at the CBC.”
The session was one of four available during the morning time slot, and Roberge said the topics of discussion change each year.
The reality of life as a Jewish woman and Jewish feminism was discussed by local experts, including Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton of Or Haneshamah; Deidre Butler, director of Carleton University’s Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies; and Peggy Kleinplatz, a professor of psychology and sexology at the University of Ottawa.
Both men and women filled the audience as each of the three gave a short presentation and then participated in a panel discussion on lived experiences and feminist history.
Ander Moss, 14, took notes during the presentation.
“I came with my family and I just wanted to cover everything,” he said, adding that each family member went to different sessions.
Patricia Dunphy said her experiences at Limmud taught her that she is “barely scratching the surface when it comes to Judaism,” adding that she has so much more to learn and has been inspired to further her Jewish education.
The opportunity for Jewish learning also extended to appreciation of the arts, with many local artists displaying their works throughout the day. Limmud Ottawa closed in the evening with the Israeli Tafillalt ensemble performing its first Canadian concert at Carleton University.
Limmud Ottawa, like the dozens of affiliated conferences worldwide, is run entirely by volunteers. For more information or to get involved, visit www.limmudottawa.ca.