By Alanna Berman
In its first year under the direction of the Center for Jewish Culture, Yom Limmud will now take place on the last day of the San Diego Jewish Book Fair, Nov. 13, bringing Jewish education to a whole new level. The spectrum of speakers at Yom Limmud, which in the past has included those with spiritual and educational expertise, has expanded to now include more authors and politicos as a tie-in to the Book Fair.
Topics, which range from spirituality, education, LGBT issues, food, writing and history, will be organized in sessions designed for educators, families, teens and the general public. The community day of learning will begin at 9 a.m., with multiple sessions running concurrently throughout the day. A closing performance of “Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project” will conclude the day’s events, bringing participants together for an informative and entertaining session. For information on sessions not featured here and for ticket prices, visit www.sdcjc.org/yomlimmud. Buy tickets at (858) 362-1348 or www.sdjbf.org.
Morning Talks • 9 a.m.
Natalia Indrimi and Rabbi Philip Graubart: “One, None and a Hundred Thousand: Jewish Writers in 20th Century Italy”
Natalia Indrimi, the director of New York’s Primo Levi Center, which is dedicated to studying the history and culture of Italian Jewry, works to bring the Italian Jewish experience into the spotlight through speaking engagements and translations of historical texts. Her talk with Rabbi Graubart will focus primarily on the man and inspiration for the center, Primo Levi, and in particular, his science fiction writing.
“Levi tried to understand how human nature and things that are perfectly fine in a so-called “civil society” [are] the same elements of human nature that can produce something like Auschwitz [where he was interned in the 1940s],” Indrimi says.
Levi offered a glimpse into the life of a very rich segment of the Jewish experience, which Indrimi will illuminate further in this session.
Morning Talks • 10:15 a.m.
Jay Michaelson: “God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality”
In his book, “God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality,” Michaelson examines religious texts and teachings in terms of sexuality and sexual diversity, making the argument that “religious people, Jews and Christians, particularly, should support rights for LGBT individuals because of religion, not despite it.”
A former scholar in residence for synagogues across the country and a current Ph.D. student in religion, Michaelson uses verses from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, as well as interviews with religious scholars, to make his case.
“We can read [these texts] narrowly or we can read [them] broadly, and both the readings work,” he says. “So the question isn’t who can be the most clever, but how our fundamental values influence how we read our sacred texts.”
Afternoon Talks • 1 p.m. • Keynote Address
Consul General of Israel David Siegel: “Israel, Meeting the Challenges of the Middle East”
Consul General Siegel will give a briefing about the changing Middle East during the only session at this hour.
“[The changes in the Middle East] are not just about an Arab Spring or a season, but really about generational change in many, many countries and societies that are facing deeply systemic issues, economic and social issues,” Siegel says.
Siegel says his talk will focus on the effect of Middle East change on Israel in terms of the relationships between Israelis and Palestinians and the relationships between Israel and her neighbors, specifically Iran and Turkey, although he insists this aspect is not meant to cause worry. In fact, he says, Israel’s resilience, as well as her other achievements, in the arts and sciences, for example, are what make the country great, something he hopes to show during his address to the Yom Limmud crowd.
“Israel has always been surrounded by a highly unstable Middle East, and that’s never defined what Israel is,” he says.
Closing Performance • 3:30 p.m.
“Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project”
Culminating the day’s events, “Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project” will unite audience members of all ages for the play, which previously has been presented across the country. Irena Sendler, a Polish woman, rescued hundreds of children and adults from the Warsaw ghetto in the 1940s, hiding vital information, including the names of these children and their families, in glass jars she buried, to be dug up later. She was largely unknown until a group of Kansas high school students discovered her story, launching the project.
“Sendler believed adamantly that there was no difference in race, religion or creed, and only a difference of good people and bad people in the world,” said Norman Conrad, who taught the students at Uniontown (Kan.) High School when they began the project, and now runs the project out of the Lowell Milken Center in Fort Scott, Kan., where he is director.
Conrad, as well as two of the students who founded the project and act in the play, will be at Yom Limmud and will present their play about Sendler’s life alongside a video about the development of the project.