From midrash to tambourines: Workshops teach plenty

The biggest problem facing women who plan to attend the Celebrating Diversity/Creating Community conference Sunday, Nov. 5 lies in choosing just three workshops out of the 80 that will be available.

The workshops fall into four categories: Social Action, Circles of Identity, Spirituality/Jewish Learning and Self-Expression. Attendees can opt for participatory workshops in which they can sing, for example, or create a midrash, a biblical commentary.

On the other hand, attendees can also choose to watch expert panelists discuss such issues as Israeli politics and possible responses to the religious right.

Participants can hear reports from Rita Semel and Judy Bloom, who were delegates to the International Women's Conference in Beijing; they can converse with author Tillie Olsen or with Rona Shapiro and Zari Weiss, who are both female rabbis.

In addition to attending workshops, participants will gather twice for plenary sessions. Anita Friedman, executive director of Jewish Family and Children's Services, will speak at the morning session on "The Future of the Community: Stories That Will Break Your Heart."

The afternoon session, sandwiched between two afternoon workshops, will feature poet/activist Irena Klepfisz speaking on "Vocabularies of Struggle: Jewish Feminism and Jewish Secularism." The group will gather at day's end for a closing ceremony and reception.

Social Action offerings include workshops on domestic violence, hate crimes, the Beijing Conference, personal values and social justice, homophobia, disabilities, immigration and Jewish women in public office.

Workshops in the Circles of Identity category will deal with interfaith families, healing, witchcraft, finding a place in the Jewish community, being Jewish and of mixed race, finding a Jewish mate and choosing to be single.

Among the Spirituality/Jewish Learning workshops are sessions on raising spiritual children, traditional observance, Jewish/feminist theology, bat mitzvah, Eastern religions, meditation, honoring life cycles and aging.

Subjects of Self-Expression workshops include Jewish authors, painters, and filmmakers, stories, folktales and superstition, Jewish dance and movement, singing, and tambourine-making.

The entirely volunteer-run conference received major funding from the Endowment Fund of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, the Endowment Foundation of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay and the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund.

Attendance is limited to 1,000 women. Registration is $55. For a complete listing of workshops and a registration brochure, call the conference office at (415) 777-3077.

Suzan Berns