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By BERNIE BELLAN
While Limmud attracts presenters of all different stripes, it’s always nice when among those presenters we find a few former Winnipeggers who have made names for themselves in other parts of the world. When those individuals do return to Winnipeg for Limmud you can be sure that some of the people who will turn out to hear them will be old friends and sometimes former students from years past – as well, of course, as relatives.


This year it will be our good fortune to have among the presenters Jason Marantz – someone who left his mark on so many different facets of Winnipeg Jewish life before departing for England in 1999. Since then Jason has fashioned quite a career as an educator. He has been Headteacher (principal) at a London Jewish primary school and is currently Chief Executive of the London School of Jewish Studies.
(As Jason explained it to me, the London School of Jewish Studies is a Jewish teacher’s college that “actually trains teachers for all the Jewish schools.”)
Now 40 and married with four children, ages eight years to eight months, Jason Marantz is a graduate of Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate – where he also served as a teacher (and at the Gray Academy when that school opened its doors in 1997). In addition Jason was a very popular program administrator at Camp Massad during the 1990s. He was also well known for his work with kids at the old Y.M.H.A. on Hargrave, where he could always be counted on to bring a smile to anyone’s face – kids and adults alike.
I caught up with Jason in his London home recently via Skype. During the course of our conversation Jason offered a glimpse of what the two presentations that he will be delivering at Limmud on Sunday, March 15 will entail.

How Jason came to be part of this year’s Limmud is, in itself, an interesting story. As he tells it (in a distinctive British accent that he’s now acquired, by the way), Jason had “started to get involved with Limmud” in London three years ago Limmud there, he explained, “is much bigger” than it is in Winnipeg – “almost a week long conference…with over 3,000 people there”.
Two years ago he happened to be sitting at the same table as someone who was the chair of Limmud Vancouver “and he said there are people here from other Limmuds. There’s someone here from Limmud Winnipeg.”
“I asked him who that was and he said ‘Faye Rosenberg Cohen’, who I was familiar with, but didn’t know… I met Faye and here we are: two people in the middle of this huge banquet room having this long chat about Winnipeg.”
One thing led to another and Jason was invited to appear at this year’s Limmud. Since Jason’s parents, Bonnie and Howard Marantz, along with his sister Kara, are all still in Winnipeg, coming to Limmud this year affords Jason the opportunity to spend time with his family as well as appear at Limmud.
During his first presentation at Limmud, which will take place at 10:15 am, and which is titled “Keeping it Real: The Future of Jewish Education”, Jason says he will touch on some of the topics that are of pressing interest for anyone who is concerned about Jewish education, including maintaining enrolment and making the “traditional relevant”.
“I’ll be talking about keeping things authentic and realistic,” he explains. “Those are my big passions right now…How do we convince people that Jewish education is meaningful… How do we engage children – and adults, in topics which seem quite foreign and traditional to them?”
One of the interesting challenges that Jewish schools in England have faced is not having enough qualified Jewish educators, he notes. As a result, Jason says, the London School of Jewish Studies has “partnered up with a local university - Middlesex University, and we have written and created a B.A. in Jewish Education.”
Ultimately, it is hoped that the program will turn out between 30-40 teachers a year, he adds.
Also, as part of his presentation, Jason says that he will touch upon the experience that both he and his wife (who’s a practicing oncologist) had in starting a Jewish school themselves several years back – along with eight other couples.

Later on Sunday (at 2:45) Jason will be giving his second presentation – this one somewhat less serious and one that will be of special interest to a younger audience: “The Only Jew at Hogwarts”.
Jason explains that he has been a long-time Harry Potter fan but his Masters degree, which was obtained in Literacy Learning and Literacy Difficulties, has led him to spend a “lot of time training teachers in the Jewish Studies program at the London School of Jewish studies in how to integrate English studies and the Jewish curriculum.”
“So I’m reading Harry Potter with my daughter (Ora, who is five) and I’m into the fifth book and I come across this character named Anthony Goldstein. He’s throughout the entire book. You know why? ‘Goldstein – Granger’. He’s before Hermine Granger in the alphabet. Whenever they call the names, he’s there.
“I think this is fascinating – there’s a Jewish character there – right? Now on December 16th (It’s Chanukah) somebody Tweets to J.K. Rowling: ‘Are there any Jewish wizards?’
“She Tweets back: ‘Anthony Goldstein – Jewish wizard’. I show this to my daughter and we realize: ‘Yah, there is a Jewish wizard in Harry Potter. He doesn’t do very much, but he’s there.’”
At this point in our conversation, Jason launches into a detailed – and fascinating exposition of Harry Potter, pointing to the many similarities between the Harry Potter story and one of the best-known stories from the Bible.
But, rather than reveal just what it is that Jason is going to discuss in his talk – which, I must say, came as quite a surprise to me, I’m going to leave it to you to find out for yourself. Suffice to say that if you’re at all interested in Harry Potter you’re going to love this session.
Parents of kids who are of school age will probably find this particular session of special interest, but wouldn’t it be fun to attend along with your kids? I’m going to leave with you a challenge: If you had to compare the Harry Potter story with any one story from the Bible, which do you think would match it most closely? I think you’ll be amazed at the similarities that Jason will reveal during his talk.