Federation day of learning to look at the next 100 years

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is capping off its year of centennial celebrations with a day of Jewish learning and culture called “Imagining Our Future.”

The Dec. 4 half-day event at the Sheraton Universal will feature a workshop on cutting-edge Jewish ritual, a roundtable discussion for Hollywood power brokers and a session on envisioning the Jewish future. The group known as East Side Jews will present a mash-up of Jewish ritual, comedy and music, and a closing concert will feature local musicians honoring the work of Leonard Cohen.

“I hope it will have a little of a fair-like atmosphere, with a variety of offerings,” said Jonathan Jacoby, Federation’s senior vice president, Programs for Jewish Life.

“This is about taking pride in Federation’s role of bringing people together from different parts of the community around a positive purpose. What is nice about this is it’s not around an emergency.”

Federation has enlisted many community leaders to be part of the sessions, including rabbis, innovative thinkers and organizations like LimmudLA and Jewlicious.

Community rabbis will face off in an impromptu Sermon Slam, while other rabbis will pair up in ideologically mismatched sets to demonstrate chevruta, or partnered Torah study, at the community Beit Midrash. Later, Jconnect’s Rabbi Yonah Bookstein will lead a Jewlicious-sponsored speed-chevruta.

One session will explore how to bolster environmental responsibility and another will propose greater inclusion for underserved populations — children with special needs, the gay and lesbian community, and immigrants.

This is not your typical Federation event — which is exactly why Federation jumped on the idea when Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom suggested it, Jacoby said. “We live in a very open society with lots of different choices, and we believe that Judaism has an enormous amount to offer, but we have to find a different way of offering it if we expect people to take advantage of those resources and tools and traditions and thought processes,” Jacoby said.

Jacoby is hoping for several hundred attendees, but he acknowledges he isn’t sure what to expect, as this is a new endeavor for Federation.

“The community wants Federation to be more Jewish and more engaged in building community,” said Federation President Jay Sanderson. “I think in the past, Federations — and not just our Federation — have been risk averse. They do the same things — they do outreach the same way, engagement the same way, leadership development the same way, fundraising and allocation the same way. And we’re trying to be as responsive to the community as possible. If we aspire to be an organization that builds community, then we have to be willing to take some risks and do some things that may not seem like things we have done before or should be doing.”

The event closes with a concert celebrating the words and music of Leonard Cohen, the Canadian singer/songwriter/poet/novelist who received the 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and whose new album will be released in January 2012. Hosted by Lisa Edelstein and led by Craig Taubman, the tribute features Perla Battala, Cantor Joseph Gole, HaZamir Los Angeles and Kol Echad Choir from Milken Community High School, Laurence Juber, Joshua Malina, Yael Meyer, Moshav, Sharon Robinson, Iliana Rose, Eric Schwartz and the Wellspring.

“Imagining Our Future” takes place Dec. 4, noon-6 p.m. The cost, including a kosher lunch, is $36 per adult, and $18 for those under 30, over 65, or a member of a partner organization. Federation will not turn away anyone for financial reasons, Jacoby said.