Connected Wisdom of Toronto was among 23 Jewish organizations who officially partnered with FSU Canada for the annual Limmud FSU Connections 2015 Conference held November 21st-23rd in Blue Mountain,Ontario. Connected Wisdom conducted two class sessions, ran a children’s program, manned an information table, and provided impromptu music and dancing for 500 Canadian/Russian Jews who were attending the 2015 Connection Conference.
The Limmud FSU Connections 2015 Conference is an egalitarian volunteer-driven celebration of Jewish learning and culture presenting an enormous range of topics through seminars, lectures, workshops, and discussions to engage Russian-speaking Jewish adults. Bella Pisman, Toronto Region Programs Director for Connected Wisdom, met with Limmud FSU Connections organizers over a period of six months in order to perfectly plan how Connected Wisdom expertise could optimally add to the 2015 Connections Conference. The results were, “the perfect connection any team could only dream of!”
“I do not use the word ” perfect “usually, but this is exactly the word I’d like to use to describe our experience at the Limmud FSU Conference.” ~ Bella Pisman, CW Toronto Region Programs Director
“We did not come only to lecture, run a part of the kids program, or have a table with Connected Wisdom material. We came there to unite with 500 Jewish people on all the possible levels.” ~ Connected Wisdom lecturer
Connected Wisdom presented a session focused on topics surrounding the Holocaust to eleven conference-goers, more than half of whom were under age 30. The session entitled, “Remembering for the Future The Tragedy of Babi Yar and Denunciation of Holocaust and Anti-Semitism in All its Forms,” began with Yuri Rudnirsky- Korenblum’s passionate yet friendly presentation of the perfect balance of factual information, personal narrative, and meaningful questions that prepared participants to share freely in the Connection Circle that followed. Commenting later on the experience of participants in the Holocaust Connection Circle, Bella Pisman, CW Toronto Region Programs Director, said, “I knew this topic would open up hearts, but I could not expect to hear what I heard from all eleven participants. The level of sincerity reached the top!”
Responses to the question, “How can we prevent another Holocaust?” were startling in their thoughtful depth. The consensus was that unity among Jews and education are the keys for preventing anti-Semitism. The level of passionate responsibility to take action to prevent another Holocaust that participants revealed in the center of the Connection Circle was stunning. The words “Unity” and “Connection” were used by participants with so much emotion that it was clear that the mission of the Jewish people is not a mere cliché phrase for them, but a serious issue they want to act on. It was clear that the circled group felt total responsibility for the future of the Jewish people and the world. In various ways, several participants expressed the sentiment shared by one this way, “Unless the Jews unite, we won’t be able to spread this message!” One Connected Wisdom lecturer remarked, “We had real tears and real joy…We didn’t expect this.”
The Happiness session, “Unlocking the Key to Happiness Through Science and Ancient Jewish Wisdom,” was held in a technology-friendly area of the conference venue that made it possible for a professional photographer to film the session, as well as to interview the Connected Wisdom lecturer, Mary Pennock, conducting afterwards. The group of participants in the Happiness session included several people who had been impressed by the Holocaust session earlier. Although filming was taking place during the session, participants were so immersed in the process of connecting and opening their hearts to one another that they were oblivious to the cameras. One Connected Wisdom trainer in the session said, “Mary simply charmed the participants with the love emanating from her. People were not only interested, they were mesmerized, drawn to unite and open up hearts.” The Connection Circle in the Happiness session was very personal, with everyone opening freely to one another in turn upon receiving the speaking object—a unique 3-D printer key that highlighted the session title, “Unlocking the Key to Happiness Through Science and Ancient Jewish Wisdom.” As evidenced by comments from participants after the session, as well as by visits to the Connected Wisdom information table, hearts were indeed unlocked and deeply impressed by the Happiness session.
Connected Wisdom professionals developed and hosted a children’s program that made a huge impact on both participants and organizers of the FSU Limmud Connection Conference. Connected Wisdom lecturers Dina Levin and Sergey Dondish assisted by Alex Dondish, masterfully led 30 children ages 4–11 in connection games and activities that centered around the themes of friendship, sharing, and giving at Connected Wisdom’s “Friendship Station,” which was in operation throughout the weekend event. On the last day of the conference, participating children contributed their artistic creations to create a “Friendship Island” display for all attendees to enjoy. Children contributed their artistic creations. At the end of the session on Sunday, parents came to pick up their children and commented on the warm feeling in the air the moment they walked in. They commented on the connection between the children and feeling of peace present. An FSU Limmud organizer offered this to Connected Wisdom staff:
“It was a true pleasure meeting you all and working with you. Your strong leadership qualities, professionalism, and reliability were the key ingredients to the amazing success of the Young Limmudnik’s Program. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication. Looking forward to working with you again next year!”
Music & Dancing & Information
When a conference jamming session had to be cancelled, Connected Wisdom’s Dina Levin and Sergey Dondish stepped in with an impromptu musical performance of Hebrew and Russian songs in the venue lobby. Many were attracted to come and join in the musical celebration of unity. Many warm connections were made and enhanced as attendees danced and sang together. “ What a delight it was!”
Connected Wisdom of Toronto also manned an informational display of Connected Wisdom materials, including the popular Connection Kits. Many participants of the Connected Wisdom session, as well as others, came by to rave about their experience with the Circle Method and learn about further Connected Wisdom programs.
Connected Wisdom of Toronto put heart and soul into heightening the level of unity among attendees of the FSU Limmud Connection Conference of 2015. “Volunticipating” in meals, conducting and attending sessions, having fun together on the dance floor, and engaging in warm conversation all contributed to the magic of the event. While those who participated say that the experience was beyond words to convey, all felt as a “WE sharing ONE eternal space together,” a true “Friendship Island.”