A Month of Trailblazers and Change-Makers
Adult Ed Department, Sharoni Sibony
“[What] does this 5,000-year-old book do for my life in 2018?… It’s hard being a Jew, but you have a whole lifetime to figure it out. That is the prismatic effect of Torah. Every year, it means something different. Every year, it magnifies something that it didn’t last year.”
These are the words of Rabbi Tamar Menasseh, the subject of a powerful film that we’re partnering to present this weekend with the Toronto Jewish Film Foundation and the Toronto Jewish Film Society. I was struck by her phrasing, “the prismatic effect of Torah,” as I follow the 929 Torah learning project and it just concluded one cycle this week and will begin the entire Torah again next week with Bereishit, the book of Genesis. (This is a perfect time to check it out if you haven’t yet.) What are the books or songs that you return to again and again in your life? Do you have a favourite winter read that offers you something new each year? The magic of the Torah reading cycle is in its patience with us: we return to the same place in the scroll, but we are changed by the year that’s passed, and we can find new insight in the familiar verses. Like marking our growth on the kitchen doorpost, we can mark our internal growth by that process of return and changed understanding.
And what do we do with that learning and growth? Perhaps you’re familiar with the Talmudic teaching that “Study is greater [than practice], for it leads to action.” Rabbi Menasseh asks: What cracks does your Judaism motivate you to repair in the world? The film, They Ain’t Ready For Me, focuses on her fight against senseless killings on the south side of Chicago and the role of her Judaism in her activism. As a Holy Blossom member, you get discounted access to view this film now through Sunday, and can attend a talk-back session hosted by our own Tema Smith with Rabbi Menasseh and the filmmaker, Brad Rothschild, this Sunday at 4 PM.
We’re featuring this film, alongside Rabbi Bill Tepper’s 2-part workshop on Rabbis and the Civil Rights Movement, as February is Black History Month. If you haven’t learned with Rabbi Tepper yet, don’t miss this opportunity!
This month, we’re excited to co-present another historical change-maker, as Rabbi Sally Priesand returns to Toronto (via Zoom). As many of you know, Rabbi Priesand is the first woman to have been ordained by the Reform movement, in 1973, and she’s going to share the story of Rabbi Regina Jonas, the world’s first female rabbi, who perished in Auschwitz in 1944.
Finally, I invite you to save the date for a wonderful, animated discussion with Professor Michael Meyer, Adolph S. Ochs Professor of Jewish History Emeritus, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati. Professor Meyer has been a teacher to Rabbis Splansky, Helfman, and Goodman, and we’re delighted to bring him to the whole congregation to speak about his biography of Rabbi Leo Baeck, one of the most important Jewish figures of prewar Germany. He’ll be Zooming in to speak with Eric Petersiel, Head of School at The Leo Baeck Day School on Tuesday, March 1 at 7 PM EST.
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