Boasting inclusivity and cheesecake, Tikkun Leil Shavuot returns in person
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Boasting inclusivity and cheesecake, Tikkun Leil Shavuot returns in person

'Inspiring, extraordinary and truly pluralistic' event brings community together again

Cheesecake is a classic Shavuot food, and yes, it will be at the JCC. Photo by popovaphoto via iStock
Cheesecake is a classic Shavuot food, and yes, it will be at the JCC. Photo by popovaphoto via iStock

A popular event among Jewish Pittsburghers is back this year — in person.

Tikkun Leil Shavuot, a night of Torah study at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, is scheduled for June 4, from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m.

Adam Hertzman, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s director of marketing, said that after two years of pandemic disruptions, the Federation was eager to bring people back together again for the program.

In 2020 and 2021 the Federation and JCC offered pre-Shavuot online learning opportunities, Hertzman said, but event organizers are excited to be back in person featuring such a “fantastic group of educators from across Pittsburgh, representing all movements and ways of thinking.”

Tikkun Leil Shavuot is “an incredible representation of community, and it’s what makes Pittsburgh so unbelievably special,” said Liron Lipinsky, one of 15 Jewish educators set to participate in the program.

Lipinsky’s talk is titled “Canceled: The Jewish Evolution of Cancel Culture.”

As international vice president for enrichment strategy at BBYO, Lipinsky said she’s looking forward to sharing insights on the knotty topic of cancellation.

Like Torah study, delicious cheesecake is a Shavuot staple. Photo by jpellgen (@1179_jp) via Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/27917561@N00/14558959012

Rabbi Henoch Rosenfeld, director of Chabad Young Professionals, also will explore weighty issues this Shavuot. His session is titled, “All Eyes on the Future: The Secret End to the Chaos Around Us, and How to Get There.”

As someone who typically works with a younger demographic, Rosenfeld said he’s looking forward to studying with and learning from the larger community.

“Torah unites the Jewish people,” he said. “The fact that we’ve been learning the same Torah for thousands of years — and that it’s connected us together — and that we have the opportunity to learn together under one roof is something that no one should take for granted.”

Danielle Kranjec, director of campus initiatives for Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, said that Tikkun Leil Shavuot is not only the most inclusive learning event in Pittsburgh, but also “it’s the most truly inclusive learning event I’ve ever been to.”

Kranjec moved to Pittsburgh 11 years ago and had just started working at the former Agency for Jewish Learning when she participated in her first Tikkun Leil Shavuot.

“I found it so inspiring and so extraordinary,” she said. “I don't think before that night I had ever learned in a truly pluralistic setting in the way that I experienced it at the JCC in Pittsburgh.”

Through the years, Kranjec attended the program both as a presenter of Jewish teachings and as a student welcoming the lessons of others. This year, she will discuss a topic of personal interest, “The Torah of Women’s Lived Experiences: Shavuot in the Memoirs of Pauline Wengeroff.”

Since the pandemic began, Kranjec has turned to Jewish women’s memoirs as a “source of wisdom and learning to give me strength during these difficult times,” she said.

Kranjec believes Wengeroff’s memoirs can be helpful to others as well.

Exploring the life of a 19th century woman — and seeing how she experienced the holiday — alongside so many diverse members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, “might illuminate our own relationship to our tradition,” Kranjec said.

Etti Martel’s cheesecake has an Israeli flair. Photo courtesy of Etti Martel
Squirrel Hill resident Etti Martel made this cheesecake. Photo courtesy of Etti Martel

Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. For more than 500 years, Jews have recalled that occasion by staying up until the early hours of the morning engrossed in Jewish wisdom.

There are several learning opportunities on Shavuot night across the city and surrounding areas, but Hertzman said he hopes many Pittsburghers come together and study at the JCC as they’ve done for so many years.

Kranjec agreed, saying, “There's really something for everyone. People are welcome into the space to learn without any requirements or preconceived notions or expectations.”

“It's really one of the few spaces where I've seen such a diversity of Jewish people and Jewish identities coming together just really with open hearts and open minds to learn from each other and to learn from the rabbis and scholars in our community,” she added.

Vaccinations are required, though because of the holiday, organizers will be relying on the honor system. And cheesecake will be served. PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburghjewischronicle.org.

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