Dispatches from the Adult Education Department
by Sharoni Sibony
Now that Purim is over, I can tell you a secret: Pesach is my favourite holiday. When I was small, Pesach felt like a staycation. We lined the car with bedsheets and shopped the Midnight Madness sales at Honest Ed’s. We turned an old door into a table and hosted the creative chaos of 35 loving relatives around that extended table. We took the first and last days off school and my grandmother moved in with us for the week. It seemed like everyone we’d ever known came by for post-shul gefilte fish and visits, while my uncle rifled through our Pesach drawers for Bazooka gum and chocolate-covered almonds. And the house was sparkly fresh.
My mom used to pull out the film projector and we’d spend the middle days of Pesach watching ephemeral scenes of our family elders dance across our living room wall. If Pesach is the holiday that commemorates our collective becoming as a spiritually, politically autonomous Jewish nation, for me as a child, it was also the occasion on which my family reinforced its own narrative of being and becoming through storytelling.
I’m really excited because this is a theme that Rabbi Goodman will be exploring in his Shalom-Hartman course, launching on Tuesday, on “Becoming a Collective.” What’s the interplay between family or common aspirations/ideology as a basis for group solidarity? In this course, we’ll get to unpack the Judaism of Being – the idea that lineage defines Jewish identity – and the Judaism of Becoming – the notion that it’s our common commitments that shape our identity – through the lenses of Biblical narratives and contemporary Jewish thinkers. The curriculum cuts right to the heart of what it means to belong to a group, how to navigate that shifting sense of belonging when conflict over values and goals inevitably arises, and how to juggle our universal and communal ethical responsibilities. It’ll also give us a chance to discuss together the values and activities that we make the bedrock of our collective community at this moment in Holy Blossom’s history.
To enrich your Seder experience, on March 31st, I’m delighted to be co-teaching with my mom, Suellen Sibony, the woman who taught me how to make a fabulous Seder. After decades of adapting our own Haggadot and Seder services to reflect the changing needs of the people around our table, we’re sharing our insights in a How-to-Haggadah workshop. With tips and tricks for engaging kids, teenagers, and adults, we’ll be offering a variety of fresh resources and global customs that we’ve picked up along the way – plus, we’ll give you a chance to share your best strategies with each other.
As the city opens up, we’re also exploring the question of belonging to a collective in the context of COVID, first “Through the Eyes of Your Rabbis” this Sunday with the Toronto Board of Rabbis’ Study Kallah reflecting on two years of the pandemic, and then with the support of the Luke Sklar Mental Health Initiative’s webinar on coping with Passover plans in light of the new rules for COVID. We’ve all seen the possibilities provided by being connected trans-geographically to the broader Jewish community across Zoom. But how do we also manage to reconnect in person, celebrating the value of the local community in a global world? An amazing line-up of rabbis will be sharing their stories from the frontlines and their expertise in processing the pandemic, and discussing what the future of Judaism looks like as the rules relax.
Finally, we’ve been gifted a beautiful opportunity to invite you to hear from the “Indiana Jones” of contemporary collecting, Dr. Yoel Finkelman, on March 27th. Dr. Finkelman is the head curator of the National Library of Israel’s Judaica collection, and he’s got great stories of the hunt for rare manuscripts and commentaries and how they’ve landed up in his care.