Category Archives: Research

Supporting material – Rabbi Zalman Schachter’s Years in Winnipeg


This page includes audio files and other material supporting my application for a SSHRC Insight Development Grant project including research-creation through verbatim theatre.

Storytelling and theatre are different but related arts. My long involvement with storytelling gives me a starting point for engaging with theatre creation. Here are three recent audio recordings of my storytelling.

These are informal performances without the polish of professional theatre. The wording of each story is improvised on the spot rather than having been memorized word for word as in a theatre script. But they are oral performances, like theatre. In the first two, moreover, I am playing a character. Unlike a traditional telling of a folktale, I am not just a narrator recounting the doings of others in the third person; and unlike contemporary personal storytelling, the “I” in the story is not me.

I told this story, “The Power of Storytelling?” on December 13, 2019 at Toronto’s long-running weekly storytelling gathering, 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling. It is my adaptation of an episode in the novel King John of Canada by Scott Gardiner: 


This story, “Hanukkah Eggs,” is even more related to theatre in that two characters are involved, one “played” by my spouse, Jane Enkin, and the other by me. We adapted this story from a non-Jewish folktale and told it at an open “Evening of Tales,” organized by the Toronto Jewish Storytelling Guild, on December 15, 2019:


This considerably longer story, “Aladin,” is theatrical in that it involves a complicated, dramatic plot and a number of major characters. Following the storytelling traditions I have learned, I do not “act” the different characters or give them each a different voice, but I become each of them to some extent. This is my adaptation of the first known version of the famous story of Aladdin (rather different from the Disney movie!), by Antoine Galland. I told it on November 4, 2018, as part of a storytelling house concert, in which all stories were from the Arabian Nights, as a fundraiser for Crossed Hands Refugee Committee, Winnipeg.


Experiences as an amateur actor

On March 22, 2019, I played a lead role, King Achashverosh, in “My Fair Maidel,” a musical Purimshpil (play/entertainment for the Jewish holiday Purim) adapted from “My Fair Lady,” at Temple Shalom, Winnipeg.

On June 17, 2010, I had a lead role, in Yiddish, in the Winnipeg Yiddish Women’s Reading Circle annual skit at the Gwen Secter Centre; the playlet was based on the novel Malke, Malke by Bess Kaplan, and directed by the author.


Below is a list of earlier highlights of my storytelling – aside from frequent storytelling in my courses – since taking up my position at the University of Manitoba. Locations are in Winnipeg unless otherwise stated.

November 24, 2017. “When there were No Mirrors in the World,” a Turkish/Sephardi story, as part of a Shabbat service at Temple Shalom

December 4, 2015: “Faithful Zuleika,” a story from Muslim tradition, as part of a Shabbat service at Temple Shalom

November 28, 2015: “Chelm Finds a Treasure,” original adaptation of a Jewish folktale, as part of a CD launch concert by Len Udow, at Temple Shalom – see this article: JewishPostDec92015-10

July 5, 2013: “The Baal Shem Tov Goes to a Wedding,” original Hasidic story at the 21st World Conference of GLBT Jews, Winnipeg Convention Centre. Jane Enkin and I led a “tish” — a Shabbat evening (Friday night) social and religious gathering with a lot of singing. In this spiritual context, we presented an original story about same sex love, in the manner of the Hasidic tales that I have often told and studied. I told it, interspersed with appropriate singing by Jane Enkin. Because we performed together in this way, and because of the length and complexity of the performance and the heightened emotional atmosphere of the setting, this was the closest I have come in recent years to creating theatre.

June 8, 2013: Saturday evening program with stories and teaching, Shaarey Zedek synagogue.
This was the most recent in a series of these gatherings co-led with singer-storyteller Jane Enkin, and usually including one or more guest teachers (visiting rabbis, singers, Indigenous elders): September 25, October 30, November 13, and December 11, 2010; February 19, April 9, and May 7, 2011; January 7, February 4, March 3, and May 26, 2012; January 12 and February 23, 2013.

April 12, 2013: Storytelling in memory of master storyteller Diane Wolkstein, at Stone Soup storytelling gathering, McNally-Robinson bookstore

March 19, 2013: “Laili and Majnun” (the “Romeo and Juliet” story of the Muslim world, which I first encountered years ago in Bangladesh) at World Storytelling Day storytelling concert, at Charisma restaurant

August 5, 2012: “Imagining Reality: Cree and Métis Stories”: Storytelling for children and for adults at Capital Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Victoria BC

March 23, 2012: Hasidic storytelling as “keynote” for University of Manitoba Religion Student Association (UMRSA) annual colloquium

March 18, 2012: Storytelling and Art workshop with Ruth Livingston, Temple Shalom

June 3, 2011: “Spiritual Storytelling”, with Karen Toole at the Millennium Library, part of a series organized by leading Winnipeg storyteller Kay Stone

March 13, 2011: Hosted, and told in, a “Jewish Joke Swap” at Winnipeg Limmud festival of Jewish learning

September 25, 2010: A long story by Rebbe Nahman of Breslov at Shaarey Zedek synagogue, as the beginning of “Nachmanifest,” a festival honouring the 200th anniversary of Rebbe Nahman’s death. This was the first of the Saturday evening gatherings mentioned above, continuing until June 8, 2013.

March 20, 2010: Told in World Storytelling Day storytelling concert, Aqua Books

November 13, 2009: Featured teller at the monthly “Stone Soup” storytelling gathering, at the request of visiting master storyteller Jan Andrews

June 18, 2009: “The Cantor in Hell,” my adaptation from a Yiddish story by I.L. Peretz, Wolseley Art Festival, Neighbourhood Café

March 22, 2009, New York City: Told the conclusion of the Chinese epic “Journey to the West”(“Monkey”) as part of a performance organized by master storyteller Diane Wolkstein. The New York Times announced this event as follows:

MONKEY KING: JOURNEY TO THE WEST’ (Friday through Sunday) Diane Wolkstein and her fellow professional storytellers are prodigious masters of narrative, and in this case you could say that they’re going head to head with Scheherazade: in 18 hours over 3 days they will offer a quasi-marathon account of “Monkey King: Journey to the West,” the 16th-century Chinese epic. Monkey King’s mystical powers rival those of a comic-book superhero, and he has lots of adventures during his travels with a monk, so it isn’t necessary to experience the entire event, recommended for ages 8 and older, to enjoy it. Reservations are advised for one or more of the three days, in which Ms. Wolkstein and 25 other storytellers take turns. Friday from 7 to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; La Salle Academy, 44 East Second Street, East Village, (212) 929-6871,; $40 for three-day admission; $25 for one day.

Aphrodite Tells Her Story



In 2015 the ancient Goddess Aphrodite contacted me on Facebook. (In a proper academic stance of “methodological agnosticism” there is no reason to deny her identity.) Over the following months she told me of her memories and about her return to our world. She gave me permission to share her stories. I am presenting them here in her own words – which sometimes reflect the fact that English is not her first language; I have made a selection and arranged it by topic. I hope to write an article about these stories but present them here for all who may be interested.

 Aphrodite’s Stories (pdf file)

Rabbi Zalman Schachter’s Years in Winnipeg now on line


The first 28 interviews of this oral history project are now available on line as the Winnipeg Jewish Renewal Oral History Project, through the online archives of the University of Colorado – Boulder. I find this site a little cumbersome to navigate, but it is worth it!

I am presently applying for a grant to have all the recorded interviews transcribed to make them easier for researchers and other interested people to use.


Rabbi Zalman Schachter’s Years in Winnipeg


Rabbi Zalman Schachter (later Schachter-Shalomi, also known as “Reb Zalman”) lived in Winnipeg from 1956 to 1975. He passed away in summer 2014 in Boulder, Colorado, aged 89. He was well known as the founding figure of the Jewish Renewal Movement, and is widely considered one of the most influential rabbis of our time.

Rabbi Schachter’s years in Winnipeg were important, the foundation of his later career, but they have not been well documented. This is an oral history project to record interviews with people who knew Rabbi Schachter while he lived in Winnipeg. We are looking for all perspectives and points of view, whether laudatory or critical. Brief memories are welcome; interviews so far range from five minutes to two hours. Please contact me if you would be interested in sharing any memories of Reb Zalman during his Winnipeg years.

The first 28 interviews are now available on line as the Winnipeg Jewish Renewal Oral History Project, through the online archives of the University of Colorado – Boulder. I find this site a little cumbersome to navigate, but it is worth it!


Stories of Jews in the Hare Krishna Movement


Though the Hare Krishna Movement does not attract the same level of attention as it did in the 1960s and 70s, it remains a living and dynamic worldwide religious movement. Many of founding teacher Srila Prabhupada’s original disciples came from Jewish families, and other Jews have joined the movement more recently, including several hundred Israelis. I want to hear stories of devotees in the Hare Krishna movement, both within and outside the institutional structures of ISKCON, who identify as Jewish. Among other things, I am interested in understanding how people combine being Jews and devotees of Krishna. The focus of the research is on stories because the pastimes of Krishna are so important to devotees, because most devotees have lived interesting lives, and because I am very involved with storytelling as a listener, scholar and storyteller. I intend to share this research publicly and hope that this work will help the world to understand more about what it is to be Jewish and what it is to be a devotee, and perhaps build bridges between the Jewish community and the Hare Krishna movement. Please contact me if you might be interested in being interviewed for this project.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter’s Years in Winnipeg


I am looking to interview as many people as possible who knew Rabbi Zalman Schachter (later Schachter-Shalomi, also known as Reb Zalman) during his years in Winnipeg, 1956-1975. Please contact me if you knew him then and might be interested in sharing your memories.