Feast of Jewish Learning

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On Sunday, I got to attend the coolest Jewish event! Entitled "Feast of Jewish Learning," the SF Bureau of Jewish Education brought in about 20 Jewish educators to teach sessions on everything from Fiddler on the Roof to Talmudic sex stories. I chose three sessions that were tremendously fun, and all of the 350 young adult attendees had a great time!

My first session was about Fiddler on the Roof, and how the producers (of the original stage show) formed their particular image of Anatevka. Beyond its obvious sentimentalization and lack of authenticity, it turns out that all of the sources used were politically biased. From a set of photos (funded by the Joint Distribution Committee to get people to donate), to an "anthropological" book (funded by the American Jewish Committee to improve the image of American Jews), to various Yiddish and Ukranian films that perpetuated stereotypes for various political goals, every single source that the producers used had been subjectively created to serve one goal or another. Thus, the imagery of Fiddler on the Roof is based on intensely political source material. Cool stuff!

The next session I attended examined alcohol from the Jewish perspective. We read the story of Noah, in which he is totally righteous and solid until the very end of the story, when he plants a vineyard, gets drunk, and gets naked, after which his son walks in on him. I LOVE a good text study, and we had a lot of fun learning about the different names used, and the story's various contradictions and problems. Plus, it was led by the amazing Jhos Singer, an incredible maggid who comes up to Camp Tawonga every once in a while. Always a good time when he's around.

My last session was about King David's alleged adultery with the wife of one of his soldiers. (You know: "Your faith was strong, but you needed proof, you saw her bathing on the roof") Anyway, after examining David's resultant actions, in which he sends the husband into battle to die, and then marries the wife, we looked at the Talmudic justification for David's actions, which - it turns out - weren't actually adulterous. In the end, though, he got stuck with the murder, and God punished him for it by killing David's son. Interesting justice, and the Talmud has tons of different perspectives on it... I love a good text study.

The only bad part of the Feast was the lunch itself (kosher, provided). They had bagels, which I enjoyed, but only cream cheese and vegetables to put on them. A couple cheese slices would have killed you? God forbid you provide a little lunchmeat? Even some hot dairy food would have satisfied me. Overall, though, it was a great event, and I really enjoyed learning there. I wish it were held more frequently than once a year...

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Maybe if the food was better, it would have proved distracting and the attendees would not have wanted to return to the sessions.