Limmud NY 2010: Pet Peeves and the Holocaust

This morning at Limmud NY I overslept and just barely made it to the beginning of a session about Holocaust films. Considering how big of a genre that is, I was excited to hear a real film expert talk about the themes and trends of Holocaust films. For the most part it was a good session and I learned a lot (my friend Rebecca and I were talking afterwards about how many of the seminal Holocaust films we missed and how we kind of feel like we should go back and watch them together, except that would be the most depressing movie tradition ever). However, that session was a perfect example of one of my major conference pet peeves.
Here’s what I hate: when someone is presenting a session, teaching material that let’s assume they know pretty well, why do people in the audience feel the need to raise their hands and ask meaningless questions? You know the people I’m talking about. We’re listening to a lecture on Holocaust films, and whenever a film is mentioned they need to tell everyone in the room what they thought of it. Then they want to ask if what they thought about it was valid, which really means, “Please, tell me I’m right.†The assumption here is that everyone’s input is valuable, and I’m sorry to say that that’s simply not true. Seeing a Holocaust movie doesn’t mean that you have anything smart to say about it.

I am a hardcore believer in Egalitarianism, but big conferences always make me wonder if it’s really the right policy. I wish there was some kind of filter that would weed out the people who only want to hear their own voices, not further the discussion.

All that said, it was a good session and I learned a lot. It inspired me to go to a documentary this afternoon about a Dutch couple who survived the Holocaust. While they were in the camps they sent each other love letters, and the letters made it, too. A beautiful and unusual story.

I also got to hear Adin Steinsaltz give a session called “An Introduction to the Talmud.†I’m not sure that I’d say that’s really what he talked about, but it was fun to see so many people get so excited about a cute old rabbi. Gotta love a conference where Rabbi Steinsaltz is the big rock star. (On the unfortunate side, Steinsaltz repeated the patently false thing about there being dozens of Eskimo words for snow. Is it rude to tell him that’s not true?)

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