Taste of Limmud entices Russian Jews


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Sheri Shefa, Staff Reporter, Monday, June 8, 2015

TORONTO — An event catering to the Russian-speaking Jewish population in the GTA called Taste of Limmud set the stage for the main Limmud FSU conference scheduled for November at Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood.

Irene Vaksman, manager of immigrant settlement training employment and mentoring (ISTEM) at JVS Toronto, and one of the organizers of the all-ages Limmud FSU event, held June 4 at the Schwartz/Reisman Centre in Vaughan, explained that Limmud FSU works to bring Canadian Jews from the former Soviet Union (FSU) together through education and the arts.

Taste of Limmud, which featured two sets of three simultaneous lectures and workshops, was a preview of Limmud FSU, which will be presented on a much bigger scale.

“The whole idea is to attract interesting speakers, so for us, [Taste of Limmud] was also an opportunity to collect feedback from the community, seeing what people are more interested in. We saw clearly which sessions were more popular, so we will learn our lesson in terms of who to invite to the bigger event,” Vaksman said.

In addition to refreshments and programing for kids by volunteers from J. Roots Supplementary Jewish School and J. Academy Camp – a sleepover camp for Russian-speaking Jewish children – there were six informative sessions offered to participants.

The sessions, half of which were conducted in Russian and the other half in English, included presentations about raising children in a multilingual environment, career building, cooking, fitness and wine-tasting.

“When the wine-tasting was taking place, we had a Russian-speaking rabbi talking about Shavuot, and at that time we also had a Jewish cooking class, which was also in Russian,” Vaksman said.

“We had a Russian-speaking psychologist speaking about multilingual families and language acquisition for young kids in families where more than one language is spoken. A lot of Russian-speaking families also speak Hebrew in many cases, and then they’re exposed to English in the education system, and then [parents] may also send [their children] to French immersion, so she spoke about that.”

During the kosher wine-tasting event, Dominic Ierullo and Steve Gunning, judges with Wine Judges of Canada, provided samples of some of the best red and white kosher wines on the market, and offered a crash course on how wine is produced, stored and enjoyed.

“You have to start with quality to put quality in the bottle,” Ierullo said.

Ierullo said there used to be a stigma attached to kosher wines, but new wine-producing technologies have solved any quality issues. He said he recently organized a panel of six judges who tasted kosher wines, and “they were impressed with both the quality and the fact that they were all kosher. They didn’t expect it, and we didn’t tell them.”

“[The cost of a bottle] is not a measure of quality,” Gunning said, noting that quality is based on how a wine is made.

During a session called “Professional Branding for a Successful Career,” Joanna Samuels, a job coach with JVS Toronto, told participants about the competitive nature of the job market and gave tips to help them stand out.

“When you’re looking for work or when you’re trying to build your career within an organization, you are a product. You are a service. I hate to be harsh, but the more competitive it is, the more you have to be very entrepreneurial,” she said.

“Even when you’re working for somebody, you have to be extremely self-sufficient and you have to look after your own career regardless of the system, regardless of the environment that you’re in.”

Samuels said an important part of branding yourself is having a good social media profile. “Statistics confirm that having a strong social media presence can boost your career, help you land new jobs and build your reputation, build your career and build your business… You will be Googled,” she warned.

She said 63 per cent of recruiters check social media sites to find out more about potential employees.

For more information about Limmud FSU, visit limmudfsucanada.org.