By Philip Warmflash, Executive Director

This past Friday afternoon my family and I saw a wonderful production of Fiddler on the Roof at Arena Stage in Washington, DC.  And, you may ask, why would we go all the way to Washington to see the play?  We went because my daughter Ariel worked with the cast as the “Cultural Consultant.” Her role was to guide the cast, most of whom were not Jewish, to understand the experience of their characters through a Jewish lens.

I share this with you not only because I am a very proud father, but also because what is at the core of what Ariel did is also at the core of the work of Jewish Learning Venture: using text and tradition to build bridges between individuals and Jewish life.

Whether you attend an agency facilitated board or committee meeting, a workshop, or a jkidphilly mom’s night out, it will generally open with a Limmud— a short Jewish text, a prompt, a connection point–opening an opportunity to read, discuss and connect to the present through the past.

And what have I learned from my years of using Limmudim (the plural of Limmud)?  I have learned that texts have great power.  Most of the people with whom we work do not, and perhaps, have never, studied a Jewish text.

When I present a Limmud, I hand out a sheet of paper with the text and two questions:

  1. What do you think this text is teaching? And,
  2. What might this text have to do with our work here tonight?

After a minute or two I ask for responses, generally prefacing it by saying, “There are no wrong answers.”  In new groups this moment is often met by a somewhat awkward silence until a brave soul will offer an answer, and then a second, and then another.  That is success – a group of people suddenly making meaning of traditional Jewish texts and sharing that meaning with each other.

A Limmud is an “a-ha moment” that can connect the beauty and wisdom of the past with our realities today. I hope that we will all have chances in the coming year for many “a-ha moments,” to have our present illuminated by our past!

Wishing you and your families a Happy, Healthy 2015.