These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Why Limmud is Amazing by Rose Prevezer

Posted on December 18, 2011 by The Director of Digital Media

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Some members of the Pardes community are unfamiliar with Limmud International, but several students and many alumni are intimately involved with this rapidly expanding Jewish initiative. Among them is Rose Prevezer of the UK – home of the original Limmud.

While her family belonged to a Modern Orthodox shul in London (United Synagogue), Rose became very involved in a Reform Zionist youth movement called RSY-Netzer Olami when she was 13 years old, and she eventually became a madricha (counselor) and rosh machaneh (camp director) in her movement, as well as spending a year in Israel with them as an 18 year old. In 2003, aged 20, she attended her first Limmud, and fell in love with its pluralistic approach to Jewish education. Having volunteered many hours as an RSY-Netzer staffer, Rose found a natural home in the volunteer-run Limmud program, and hopes to eventually make the pluralistic learning paradigm of Limmud available in England all year long.

Below is her personal description of Limmud… it’s really worth a read:

“Limmud Conference: the absolute best thing in Judaism (after Pardes)”
(Yaffa Epstein, November 2011)

As this blog’s readers may be aware, a fair number of Pardes students and teachers are involved in Limmud, either as volunteers, presenters, or both. Already this year Michael Hattin and Reka have disappeared of to the event in Budapest, Meesh is due to travel to NY next semester, and in a couple of weeks time Yaffa, Judy Klitsner, Alex Israel, Reka and myself are off on a jolly jaunt to ‘Er Majesty’s Fair Isle, where sarcasm is understood, cookies are biscuits and you can get a decent cup of tea. However, as stated above, not everyone is familiar with Limmud and its brilliant contribution to the landscape of Jewish education. If this applies to you, here I am to explain.

Well, to paraphrase Ms. Epstein, Limmud is simply the best thing since sliced bread (the bread in this analogy clearly being Pardes). It is an approach to cross-communal Jewish education that started in the UK in 1980 and is now being enjoyed by 52 communities throughout the world, including Turkey, Ukraine, Amsterdam, Berlin, Boulder, NY, LA and many, many more.  To date, Limmud Conference UK is still the flagship event (the jewel in the crown, the bee’s knees, the cat’s pyjamas – hey, you’ve got to give us something) and might best be described as a residential festival of learning, held on a university campus and attended by close to 3,000 people aged from 2 weeks old to well into their 90’s. This year’s event will feature over 350 presenters – many of them world renowned in their field  –  presenting over 900 sessions across 5 days on every conceivable topic of Jewish interest. Limmud aims to enable each participant to go one step further on their own Jewish journey. Everyone is a student and everyone can be a teacher and everyone is welcome to present. Events feature all educational styles including lectures, workshops, text-study sessions, film, meditation, discussions, exhibits and performances to ensure that there is always ‘something for everyone’. Indeed, the content of a typical Limmud event is as diverse as its participants.

I use the term ‘best described’ above because Limmud cannot possible be encapsulated into a few 100 words and really has to be seen to be believed.  Indeed where else in the world can you move from a hard-hitting session on the matsav run by a former Israeli MK, to a interactive workshop on Jewish-Shamanistic yoga run by your next-door neighbour, to part 3 of a 4 part session exploring the history, development and theological implications of the Amidah. Where else can you start the day with an intensive chevruta, take in another 5 or 6 varied sessions before dinner, spend an hour or so watching some fantastic Torah-inspired reggae infused live music, catch up with friends and your favourite presenters in the bar and then cruise into a midnight text study to round things off? Sometimes the sheer volume of great sessions taking place at one time is so overwhelming I have to go lie down for a few minutes. Don’t believe me? Click here to view this year’s fantastic programme and list of presenters and here to listen to some podcasts and watch some videos  from previous conferences.

The truly, truly great thing about Limmud though, is that everything, bar 3 professional staff, is entirely volunteer led. From the Conference chair, to the programming chairs, to the IT and sound guys, to the people running Young Limmud (a programme designed for the 100’s of young people under 16 takes places concurrent to the main Conference) everyone is giving up a huge amount of free time throughout the year to be part of something unique. Even presenters are encourages to pitch in and all are rewarded by the opportunity to learn from others and not with honoraria or payments. People aged 18-30 you might not otherwise be able to attend receive heavily subsided places in return for 4 hours work each day on Conference. All of this serves to create a powerful send of community. Indeed many of us who now volunteer year-round do so because this experience  of  helping out for a few days on site left us chomping at the bit for more. I myself started off as participant, spent some time as a madricha for Young Limmud and have spent the ten months working as programming chair for the Social and Community track. Each role has been more enriching than the last, so much so that this year I am diving straight into the deep end of an icy swimming pool on a winters day and  presenting for the first time. If you happen to know anyone who could provide moral support for my two sessions please do send them along (11am Sunday on human trafficking in Israel and 10.10pm Tuesday on love and longing in Jane Austen and the Talmud with Yaffa)!

If I sound positively giddy (nay evangelical!) about the whole thing it is because Limmud is quite simply, unequivocally bloody brilliant. In those countries with more conservative Jewish communities it provides a safe forum for discussion and debate; it leads people to encounter ideas and texts they might otherwise never get to experience; it bring like-minded people together; and above all else it provides learning opportunities for those who do not have regular access. On a personal level it has perhaps done more to shape my current relationship to Judaism than anything else and it certainly played a key role in my decision to attend Pardes – if you speak to many of the non-North Americans amongst the Pardes community (many of whom are involved) they might well tell you exactly the same thing. So with, amongst other things,  Pardes recruitment in mind, I urge everyone to seek out their nearest Limmud, get involved as a volunteer, and in doing so encourage others to make Jewish learning a part of their everyday lives.

For more information on Limmud including it’s mission statement click: