Limmud dreidle competition 311.
(photo credit: Chaim Bacon)
COVENTRY – Seen one Limmud, seen them all? Well, not if you ask the
international Limmud volunteers who gathered at the Jewish educational confab at
England’s Warwick University on Wednesday.
RELATED:Limmud UK goers fail to break dreidel record
strong on identity, weak on romance
A group of 23 people came from
places as far and wide as Shanghai and Cape Town, New York and Budapest to take
part in talks, lectures and workshops on all things Jewish. On the day before
last, they met to share their thoughts on the week that was.
amazed by the diversity of the people,” said Rehina Epstein of South Africa.
“Not just the diverse ages but the nationalities too. It’s just not something
you see this much elsewhere.”
All the others in the room nodded in
So what was there this year at the conference? It’s hard to
cover the entire scope of issues and debates that took part in about 1,000
lectures, but here are some snippets.
Israeli activists Daphni Leef and
Barak Segal brought their message of social protest to UK Jewry. They did not
draw big crowds but those who did attend showed them their unequivocal
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach came to plug his new book Kosher Jesus and
test the grounds for a potential bid for the vacant position of UK’s chief
rabbi, while Rabbi Jonathan Romain told gatherers why he thought the office
should be abolished.
Activist Anat Hoffman spoke about “bad rabbis” and
the ongoing campaign by some religious elements to segregate women in
Cartoonist Eli Valley gave participants a glimpse into his wacky,
wild world, showing them his animations in a much talked about
Labor activist Valerie Shawcross had the unenviable task of
trying to persuade Jewish voters to pick Ken Livingstone, the firebrand
politician known for his anti-Israel politics, in London’s mayoral election next
Finally, over 300 children and adults got together to spin dreidels
at the same time. Not a world record, but still no small feat.
one cannot write about Limmud without devoting a few words to co-chair and
founder Clive Lawton.
Throughout the six-day conference, the Jewish
educator – with his iconic wispy, white hair and Santa Claus beard – seemed
everywhere. He moderated panels, greeted participants and packed classrooms with
a series of lectures that breezed through thousands of years of Jewish history
in five hours.
Lawton is to Limmud what Dumbledore is to Hogwarts: a
visionary leader who always has the right answer. And like J.K. Rowling’s
creation, his biggest want in life may be for a pair of socks, as the wizard
reveals to apprentice Harry Potter. Otherwise, how else do you explain Lawton’s
hippie habit of wearing sandals in December? But all niceties aside, Limmud UK
is not without flaws.
The biggest is probably the food. Baked beans,
jacket potatoes and thick, lumpy gravy; it’s a parody of standard British
“When people at Limmud Hungary complain about the food, I’m going
to show them a photo of the food here,” quipped Reka Eszter.
there’s a reason behind the quality of the nosh, besides the need to balance a
tight budget. If haute cuisine were served, you might miss the point. Limmud is
about providing its participants with food for thought. Everything else is
This year, a record number of 2,500 people came to the
conference but Lawton isn’t satisfied yet.
“I’m still struck by the
number 3,000 from the time of the first Limmud,” he said, “and we’re not there