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A Lesson In Eclectic Judaism

A Lesson In Eclectic Judaism

Vanessa Hidary, a performance artist best known for her work with Russell Simmons’ hip-hop Def Poetry Jam, tells the story of the man she met at a bar who remarked that she “doesn’t look Jewish.”
Hidary, aka the “Hebrew Mamita,” a fixture on New York’s on-the-edge cultural scene, shared her thoughts on the man’s shallow remarks during her performances before avant guard audiences.
Last year she went mainstream, as a presenter at the first Lishmah educational conference, a full day of learning at Temple Emanu-El’s Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning.
“She told me it was the first time in her life she felt the Jewish community cared what she had to say,” said Rabbi Barry Dov Katz, an organizer of the second annual Lishmah conference, which will be held Sunday, Oct. 31, 9 a.m.-7 p.m, at the Skirball Center.
Hidary returns to Lishmah this year, as a member of the advisory board of the non-denominational event.
Lishmah 2004, which will feature more than 100 teachers, representing all denominations of Judaism, will include lectures and workshops, text study sessions and movies, music and theater. It is expected to draw some 2,000 students, 800 more than last year, according to the organizers.
The conference schedule is based on the Chumash, the Five Books of Moses, with three actors in a closing session entitled “What Would Moses Say?”
Other presenters include Dr. Ruth Westheimer, ABC Television’s Joel Siegel, and author Samuel Freedman. In addition to such traditional subjects as theology and politics, lecture topics include: “Sustainable Judaism and Organic Farming,” “Bob Dylan: Rock and Roll Prophet” and “Living in Reel Time: Jews and the Movies.”
The heads of three New York-based rabbinical schools will participate in a panel discussion, “What is Jewish Denominationalism?”
Lishmah, funded by UJA-Federation, is sponsored by four dozen synagogues and other Jewish organizations.
The conference’s eclectic makeup sends “the message … that we can all come to the table” to study Torah “from all perspectives,” Rabbi Katz said, calling Lishmah the largest-such local educational venture not affiliated with a specific denomination. “People are coming because they know they could not get all of this” at traditional adult education programs, Katz added.
The Skirball Center is located at 10 E. 66th St., Manhattan. Adult single admission is $36; student single admission is $29; admission includes a kosher boxed lunch.
To register or for information, contact Lishmah at (866) 2-LISHMA(H); the Web site is

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