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May 14

Mancom Talk: Jessica Sherman on JTalk and JForum

Jessica Sherman – Adult Education

I have been a member of MANCOM for the past 2 ¼ years and have really enjoyed contributing to the process of transforming Beit Emanuel into a vibrant community, with so much going on that we have to check for clashes before organising anything new.

My particular role has been to organise adult education. JTALK which took over from the early morning Torah Breakfast programme of years back, was the first of a three pronged programme. My agenda was to ask people in the community who had done particularly interesting or brave things with their lives, to reflect on their journeys. In this way we could get to know people who we see at shul but have never spoken to. Paul Davis was the first person to do this and was extremely well received. He spoke about the ethics of being a doctor during the Apartheid period. The group requested more Jewish people who were involved in the struggle to speak. Another popular theme has been Jewish literature which Merle Williams, her colleagues and students have contributed to so brilliantly. Sometimes people come for the speaker no matter what the topic is. David Bilchitz, Lewis Levin and Dora Wynchank were regular contributors to our programme in this category. This seems to be true too when Irwin Manoim speaks. He tends to pack the room with laughter at his dry humour and original ways of presenting a story. More recently he has been researching the history of the Progressive Jewish Movement and is due to present part 3 in a few weeks time.

In the past 6 months we started JFILM which is the beginning of a film society at Beit Emanuel. We have had some excellent movies as well as a few hiccups with technology letting us down but are determined to get it right. So far we’ve shown mostly modern Israeli movies followed by a discussion led by Eran Tahor who lectures in film at Wits University.

JFORUM is the third leg of our programme. Initially the aim was to have a monthly discussion in place of JTALK on topics which we believe will be of interest to us as members of a progressive Jewish community. Rabbi Sa’ar led a fascinating series on the platforms of the American Reform Movement during the 20th century. We are about to start an evening series of talks known as the “Israel Series” where we’ll look at the various ways in which people experience and think about the current situation as well as the history of the formation of the State of Israel. It is an attempt to try and inform ourselves better and familiarise ourselves with different perspectives.

Our first speaker in this series will be Reuven Bilchitz who will talk about early Zionism.