Limmud Conference 2016

JDOV - Benjamin Gampel: As if the Jews had no Lord: Anti-Jewish Riots in Castile and Aragon, 1391

Benjamin Gampel

The most devastating attacks on the Jews of medieval Christian Europe took place in the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon during ten months from June 1391 to April 1392, and left a trail of deaths, forced conversions, and communal destruction. Many were the motives for these assaults, and diverse were the participants. While the rioters’ success cannot be easily explained, the intervention of those who pledged to protect the Jews was ineffective. While these rulers believed it their mandate to protect the Jews, they did not see the Jews’ safety as their highest priority. Aragonese royal authorities, when they looked back over the months of riots, bitterly conceded that it appeared “as if the Jews had no lord.” That the safety of a minority people cannot be assured is not simply a banality of Jewish history, but a truth about the fate of all people and of all groups whose security is dependent on others. However sincere the intentions of the majority society and the assurances of its leaders, to protect those who are reliant upon them, the security of a minority community is ultimately, for them, not a matter of paramount importance.

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JDOV - Julian Sinclair: Learn Talmud, Save the World?

Julian Sinclair

What should we do? How do we make a difference in our wondrous, fragile and interconnected world? How can we know what makes a difference when our acts reverberate far beyond our field of vision and span of life? Julian grapples with these questions, based on his ten years in the saving the world business (climate change activism, eco-city design and solar energy in Africa), twenty years being married and twenty five years studying Talmud - with the help of a Talmudic story and its journey to Beijing and back.

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JDOV - Mimi Feigelson: From Scared to Sacred: On the Cusp of Life

Mimi Feigelson

There is a well-kept secret in our tradition. The period of aninut - the time from a person's last breath until the covering of their grave - actually belongs to the dead, not to the living. What are the implications of this? What are the practical implications of the realisation that our funerals are our property, are our possession - not the mourners, not the community, not the institutions and the establishment - they belong to the dead? In this talk, Mimi Feigelson casts the funeral as a sacred drama, and challenges us to become the playwright of this drama. She asks us to claim our lives in their totality, in the understanding that, if you know how you want to be buried, you know how you want to live.

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JDOV - Nick Gendler: Will You Embrace Your Hineni Moment?

Nick Gendler

How is it possible to undo years of firmly held belief about ourselves? What does it take to recognise that changing our narrative is possible? This is the story of a profound moment in Nick's life - the moment when he challenged and fought back against a belief that was unwanted but that he felt he was destined to live with. It’s a very personal story, and it’s a story that we probably all have, or could have our own version of.

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JDOV - R Duschinsky: Guilt isn't the Problem

R Duschinsky

Guilt is feeling bad for something we have done. Shame is feeling bad for the kind of person we are. Which is the characteristic Jewish emotion? Rabbi Sacks proposes that it is guilt, that each Jew stands with awareness of divine judgement looming, feeling bad for what they have done or not done. I argue that this is an idealisation. In fact our community as a whole is functionally atheist in moral terms, even if many individuals have faith. Instead, the community talks about Jewish pride, but runs in practice on shame and fear of shame. And we laugh off the associated ugly feelings as guilt. But when attention is paid to the role of shame, the possibility arises of weighing the unsettling truths associated with these feelings of shame, as well as potential misapprehensions.

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JDOV - Susan Silverman: Second Nurture

Susan Silverman

When Susan traveled to Ethiopia to adopt her son, she didn't expect to encounter Martin Buber there. But she did. Jewish philosophy, theology and Torah study are ways to describe the indescribable, the unknowable: God’s will. But sometimes, in some moments, all these ideas take on immediate, gritty, real-life meaning. And that’s when they demand something from us – and when they matter most.

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JDOV - Zahavit Shalev: What Happens in the Room

Zahavit Shalev

Although we can listen to a piece of music or watch a recorded talk whenever we feel like it, our most inspiring and moving occasions are still those that happen when we find ourselves in a room with other people, sharing a communal experience.

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