Limmud UK Recap

What an amazing week I had at Limmud UK last week. I was privileged to be there as part of the UJIA Israel delegation, courtesy of Dr Helena Miller, Director of Research & Evaluation at UJIA and Dr Michael Wegier UJIA Executive Director.  It was an exceptional privilege to be a presenter at Limmud, where I delivered five talks, facilitated two panels, including a film, met dozens of phenomenal people from around the world -- some of whom I knew only from Facebook! -- participated in several really interesting informal discussions in the bar and over meals, including a
"dine and discuss" group over dinner facilitated by Dr. Miller, and overall felt really lucky to be in the company of so many amazing Jewish educators, activists, thinkers, and community members.

I was live-FB-ing the conference (as you might have noticed, I don't really do much tweeint; FB is really where to find me). Below are some of my recaps from the four day event: 

DAY #1of Limmud:

Saw some people, briefly IRL like Sara Averick Eve Sacks Keith Kahn-Harris Devora Steinmetz, Bevery Gribetz, Allison Kaplan Sommer, Manny Waks Alan Meerkin Helena Miller (and others i'm surely forgetting)......

Gave two sessions -- the first on "Rabbis who abuse", teasing out the ways in which Jewish communal life enables abusers and disables victims, and why high profile abusers often receive high profile support.  (sad that this session coincided with Dan Brown's session on Jewish philanthropy that i wanted to go to.)


The second session on religion and state in Israel, on issues like marriage, divorce, conversion, mikveh, and control of public spaces reflect a growing religious radicalism in israel backed by law....

Neither of these for the faint of heart....Tomorrow's session, "A revolution of dolphins", about Orthodox feminism, will be much more uplifting, hopefully..

Anyway, I had some really great exchanges and discussions over dinner and in the bar-lounge and in corridors, and I'm looking forward to more tomorrow.

Part of me wants to stay up and do fun late-night things. But after so much traveling following by intense teaching, my eyelids and my muscles rebel. More tomorrow.....

Still looking for some people: Amanda Borschel-Dan where are you? Gabrielle Birkner looking for you too.......

LIMMUD DAY #2:

Loved meeting people IRL, some of whom I had only met on Facebook (!), like a lovely breakfast with Danya Ruttenberg and Robyn Tessler Shames discussing feminism, creative processes and parenting.... meeting Nadia Jacobson Eve Sacks Manny Waks Dyonna Ginsburg..... Also enjoyed seeing (briefly) Levi Lauer Sally Berkovic and Jacqueline Nicholls. Went to some great sessions: watched Manny Waks' really intense film "Code of Silence" about what he and his family went through because of his experience of sexual abuse in Yeshiva College...... Levi Lauer on the really difficult and heart-wrenching topic of prostitution and sex trafficking. Dyonna Ginsburg on Israel's history of international development work.....

AND, gave a talk called "A revolution of dolphins", about the public and private revolutions of Orthodox feminists. Despite some technical challenges, managed to have a really interesting conversation where people shared the "firsts" from their communities around the world.... even as far as Berkeley California. (Was accused of not noticing anything "beyond the Hudson"...... ) It was so great to hear people's stories. Really really loved that.

And now, I'm off to the famous Rebbetzin's disco with Jacqueline Nicholls, for as long as my body is willing to stay awake.....and a late-night coffee with the beautiful Sally Berkovic.

LIMMUD DAY #3:
So first of all, I am SO PROUD of my spouse, Jacob Sztokman for doing a really powerful panel with Rabbi Levi Lauer -- who was so moving and brilliant -- and with two graduates of Gabriel Project Mumbai, moderated by Andrew Jacobs. It was great for me to hear also the latest updates about the kids in the slums and the villages and how their lives are changing thanks to the innovations that Jacob and his organization bring to India. Even though we have recently had a really difficult stretch where he has been away from home for quite a long time, listening to him talk about his work released a lot of that tension and reminded me why we are in this life..... Mamash cacha.....


What else? Heard the beautiful Amanda Borschel-Dan talk about her life story and the reversing spiritual journeys of her mother and herself. Got to sit next to Gabrielle Birkner and Allison Kaplan Sommer...and also saw Sara Averick... Met up with lots of people throughout the day, although it feels like ages since I sat at breakfast...

I gave two sessions today. My morning sessionwas with Dr. Beverly Gribetz about religious girls' education. We talked about women's learning, women's leadership, and dilemmas of single-sex versus coeducation. Had a really enlightening discussion with the women in the audience, like Eve Sacks, who shared the lay of the land here in the UK regarding gender and Jewish learning.

And this afternoon, I gave a talk that i have been working on for months, the first time I publicly addressed this issue -- it was something of an experiment sharing these ideas and hearing responses -- it was called "Like a thousand paper cuts: Non-contact sexual abuse". I have so much more to say about this..... and I am going to start writing more about this. I thought for sure nobody would come to this talk b/c it's a bit obscure, but we had around 30-40 people and powerful discussions at the end, so that was very validating, a push to keep going with this research and writing. I will be sharing more on this topic in weeks to come, PG

Tomorrow, last day for me, I have one talk and two panel facilitations. One of the panels is on child sexual abuse, with Manny Waks and Yehudis G. The other panel is for the film screening of "Mother, can you see us now," about a woman who reconciled with her abusive mother through therapy and forgiveness..... And the last talk -- well, that's a whole other story which I'll share tomorrow.

Anyway, it's really great to meet so many new people and exchange ideas. I really love meeting engaged, like-minded women and men. I live for that.....

LIMMUD DAY #4 -- last day, really packed with stuff...

This morning, I facilitated a really difficult and inspiring panel with Manny Waks and Yehudis G, (see photo) both courageous and outspoken former victims-turned-advocates for child sexual abuse in the Jewish community. There is so much to say about the dynamics in both stories, so much to learn about how adults are able to emotionally manipulate kids, about why it takes children so long to understand what is happening to them and to start healing, and how painful and damaging it is when adults support the abuser. Both speakers were inspiring in a very profound way.

The most amazing part of the session came at the end, when a woman in the audience introduced herself as the vice president of the Board of Deputies, and said she would try to get Yehudis some public support from within the Jewish community, something that has been lacking until now bcause her abuser -- even after serving 18 months in prison -- is still idolized in the community. Yehudis finally found an ally..... Then another woman stood up and she said she's on the board of Jewish Care and will also try to get Yehudis support. It was amazing. It just goes to show: Communal change can happen when there are great women in positions of power....

Then I facilitated a session on the movie, "Look at us now mother," by Gayle Kirschenbaum about forgiving a toxic and abusive mother. I had very mixed feelings about this movie, since I think that it's not necessarily healthy to tell victims of abuse to work on reconciliation. One-sided reconciliation -- where kids are expected to forgive abusive parents even when parents refuse to acknowledge that they were abusive -- I don't think is necessarily a good idea. Sometimes getting away is the healthiest option. But it was an interesting discussion. http://www.lookatusnowmother.com/

Then i gave a talk in a panel based on the TED and JDOV models, only this one with a critical/humorous edge, called "JNEB". My talk is called, "It's tough being a Jewish woman", which I think went over well, despite the fact that it was very personal and not so funny and didn't have a happy ending.... But it's a talk that I think I would like to give again b/c it really came from the kishkes..... Thanks to Keith Kahn-Harris for inviting me, and to Allison Kaplan Sommer and Amanda Borschel-Dan for being a great cheering squad.
Ended the day, and the conference, with Allison's session on how the internet has transformed Jewish life. I loved meeting up with great feminist Jewish writers.


Met so many amazing people today, Nadia M. Levene Rachel Adelman Dalia Marx Andi LaVine Arnovitz Sarah Averick Michal Lemberger, Rachel Efron, and so many others..... The "in real life thing" has some great value....

I am so grateful to Michael Wegier and the UJIA for bringing me in. Thanks so much to Helena Miller for the camaraderie and collegiality and for making me part of her delegation. What an exciting place to be.

And now, excited to go home to my kids and to the snow, though Jacob goes back to India... WHY, you ask, is he returning to India? Well, because the UK Chief Rabbi Mirvis is in India right now waiting for him there!!!! The Chief Rabbi is visiting Jacob in India see the work of Gabriel Project Mumbai. I'm not kidding..... SO Jacob is going to meet the chief rabbi, and together put up a mezuza at the Shravan Medical Center in the middle of the Kalwa slum -- a clinic serving Hindu and Muslim children. Will report more on this next week.....
And now, to get a few hours' sleep before heading off to the airport at 3:30 AM....

 

DAY #5: 

HOME!!!!! yay......
Grateful..... for opportunities away..... and for everything at home......
Thanks for everyone who was following and liking my Limmud posts. I wish for all of you that you find places and platforms where you can be fully you, and be received with love and appreciation for being exactly who you are. It is a gift..... and everyone deserves moments like that in life.