By BERNIE BELLAN In 2019 former Gray Academy educator Avi Posen, along with his wife, the former Illana Minuk, made aliyah to Israel, where Avi began working for an organization know as “Open Dor Media” and Illana began a four year medical program at the Technion in Haifa. (You can read about Avi’s work with Open Dor Media at http://jewishpostandnews.ca/15-news/the-cms/537-how-former-gray-academy-instructor-avi-posen-came-to-take-a-central-role-in-offering-online-education-for-jewish-schools.)
On March 6, Avi will be one of the presenters during Limmud, which will once again be held completely online
Recently we sent Avi a series of questions about his upcoming presentation. Following are the questions and Avi’s answers:
JP&N: Are you still working for “Open Dor Media”?
JP&N: If so, are you still involved with “Unpacked for Educators”?
Avi: More than ever! My main role within our organization is working on our Unpacked for Educators website which includes the building of curriculum and educational resources as well as liaising with our educator community around the world. This year I’m facilitating our partner school program in partnership with Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools in which we have 70 partner schools from 11 countries from across the religious and political spectrum. I run monthly webinars for the educators, we offer coaching sessions and help them incorporate our content into their teaching.
JP&N: I wrote a fairly detailed story about what you were doing back in August 2020. At the time everything was online. Now that in person learning has resumed, has that made any difference to how you engage with students?
Avi: Back when everything was online, educators were looking for resources and media that they could use in their virtual classrooms. We’re grateful that they found us and since returning to the classroom, the number of educators and educational institutions using our content has only grown. Good education is good education and our videos, articles, podcasts and wide array of educational resources about Israel, Jewish history and Jewish identity fill a need in the Jewish educational community whether virtually or in person. In the last couple of years we have pumped out a plethora of new content: podcasts, video series about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, antisemitism, the Shoah, the Power of Judaism and more. Last year, we ran our 2nd year of Israel Pursuit, the Israeli history and culture version of the International Bible Quiz in which we had over 12,000 students register from 13 countries. We held a live finals event with Jewish and Israeli celebrities asking questions on Zoom with 10 regional finalists from around the world – and a Canadian won first place!
JP&N: Your presentation is billed as “engaging the next generation of Jews through media”. I assume by media you’re referring to online media. I doubt that anyone under 30 ever reads a print publication. Which forms of media do you find most effective in reaching the younger generation?e.g., Tik tok, Instagram, etc.?
Avi: Exactly, in fact 85% of teenagers are on YouTube, 72% on Instagram and 69% on TikTok, according to a study from 2021, so the best way to educate them is to reach them where they are in their own language. In the last year we’ve expanded to all of the different social media platforms in a big way.
JP&N: When you give your presentation what kinds of media will you be using? Will you employ videos?
I will definitely be showing 1 or 2 of our videos.
JP&N: With everything that’s gone on with Covid, how interested do you think young people are with Israel? I myself have no idea. Maybe they’re more interested…I just don’t know. I’d be interested to get your take.
Avi: I think the events of May 2021 really lit the Jewish world on fire – the social media firestorm, the rise in antisemitism – in some ways it pushed some Jews away from engaging in their identity but I’ve found that in an incredible way, it worked to really ignite the younger generation to connect to their identity, their people and homeland like I haven’t seen for a long time.
JP&N: Anything else you want to say?
Avi: Looking forward to being a part of Limmud Winnipeg!
Winnipeg Jewish Theatre to open season with world premiere of “Pals”
By BERNIE BELLAN The opening show of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s 2023-24 season promises to be a clever and poignant take on relationships between men and women, when “Pals” makes its world premiere on November 9 in the Berney Theatre, running until November 19.
“Pals” is the third two-person show created by the team of Diane Flacks and Richard Greenblatt. Interestingly, when I spoke with Flacks and Greenblatt while they took a break from rehearsing the play in Toronto, they told me that their previous two two-person plays also had one word titles – with four letters in both: “Sibs” and “Care.”
“Pals” is the story of two friends, told over a 25-year time period. Their friendship survives many tribulations, including both characters entering and exiting many other relationships. The play uncovers the underlying tensions that permeate all friendships.
“Pals” opens with the two characters meeting for the first time. I asked Diane and Richard whether the notion of their having sex ever enters into the plot, but Richard was quick to exclaim, “We don’t have sex.”
Diane also noted that, in the case of her character, she is married to another woman. (Diane is a lesbian in real life.)
The fact that the characters maintain a friendship though becomes a source of friction within their respective relationships. It raises the question: Can you have an intimate, albeit platonic, relationship, with a member of the opposite sex all the while you’re in a physical relationship with someone else?
I asked whether the characters in “Pals” are Jewish (which both Diane and Richard are), and the answer was “yes.”
Both Diane and Richard have had past associations with the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. Richard’s goes back a very long time – when he directed the critically acclaimed “League of Nathans” in 1995.
Diane Flacks appeared in a one-night performance of a show in 2021 called “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,” which was a part of that year’s Tarbut festival. There were no in-person events that year, due to Covid, but “Jewish Mother” was available on Zoom and had a huge audience.
In addition to writing for the stage, Diane Flacks has written for TV, including Working the Engels, Baroness Von Sketch Show, Young Drunk Punk, PR, and The Broad Side.
Richard Greenblatt has performed in theatres across Canada and abroad, as well as in feature films, television and radio. He co-wrote 2 Pianos 4 Hands, which played on five continents and in over 150 cities since it opened in 1996.
Pals is directed by the internationally acclaimed director Jillian Keiley. More information, tickets and 5-show subscriptions can be found at: www.wjt.ca. You can also reach WJT by phone at (204) 477-7478.
To watch a preview video from Pals, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2W0VmHHFbA
Simkin Centre introduces Friday afternoon Shabbat services – open to all
By BERNIE BELLAN (Posted Oct. 31) The Simkin Centre held its first ever Friday afternoon Erev Shabbat service this past Friday (Oct. 27), led by Rabbi Matthew Leibl.
There were more than 30 residents in attendance, along with various other outside guests. The service was approximately 45 minutes long and was filled with stories and songs associated with Friday evening Shabbats – some from Rabbi Leibl’s own childhood and some from more recent years.
The Friday afternoon Erev Shabbat services are now to become a regular features at the Simkin Centre and are open to anyone to attend.
To watch a short clip of Rabbi Leibl introducing his first Friday afternoon service click https://youtu.be/hLSrV18K58o
The complete text of MP Marty Morantz’s speech at the community vigil for Israel on October 10
Tonight we are all Israelis!
Conservatives stand with Israel.
Pierre Poilievre stands with Israel.
On Saturday we woke up to unspeakable images.
We must stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel as it defends itself from these criminal and barbarous acts.
On Shabbat, Hamas brutally invaded Israel, invaded homes, killing hundreds, taking hostage hundreds.
More Jews were killed in Saturday’s attack than in any single day since the Holocaust.
Some 1500 human beings killed in a single day would be like 6000 Canadians being murdered in a single attack.
They were children, babies, men, women.
They were young people just out listening to music at a dance party.
This was an unprecedented brutal attack.
As we speak Hamas is threatening to execute innocent hostages.
This outrage cannot, must not stand.
Don’t let anyone tell you Hamas is the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people. It is not a government.
They are a genocidal murderous and evil death cult and they must be defeated.
But friends, we have seen evil before.
Jews have been persecuted for millennia, but we have survived.
Conservatives unequivocally condemn the invasion of Israel by Hamas terrorists and the sadistic violence that Hamas has carried out against innocent civilians.
Now is the time for moral clarity. There is no moral equivalency between democratic Israel and the butchers of Hamas.
There is no response, no matter how strong, that would be disproportionate to the crimes Hamas has committed.
Israel has the right to defend itself against these attacks and respond against the attackers – as any other country would.
Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, said, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
In 1948 that dream became a reality – a homeland in Israel, the promised land.
Working together Israelis turned a desert into an oasis.
An island of democracy surrounded by a sea of autocracy.
A Jewish state where Jews could live in peace free from fear and persecution.
Let there be no doubt. Israel is the ancient and indigenous homeland of the Jewish people.
We will not let the butchers of Hamas take that dream, long realized, away from us.
Many politicians will stand with Israel when it is easy.
But listen to what they say when it is hard.
They will talk about “both sides.”
I’m here to tell you that there is only one side.
The side of morality.
The side of democracy.
The side of Israel.
We see too often politicians at the United Nations unfairly singling out Israel for criticism.
I will always stand against the unfair singling out of the Middle East’s only democracy.
Already there are calls for Israel to deescalate.
I ask you.
Would any country deescalate after having its people slaughtered in cold blood?
I wish the people of Israel and its brave soldiers Godspeed on their mission to defend the promised land from pure evil.
As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said:
Through fire and water Canada will stand with you.
Am Yisrael Chai!