Former Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon lectures at Seattle’s first Limmud event.
(photo credit: MERYL ALCABES)
The first-ever Limmud event in Seattle saw 525 Jews from all backgrounds and affiliations gather over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend at the Shoreline Conference Center in Shoreline, Washington.
Limmud Seattle is the world’s newest Limmud, joining more than 80 communities in over 40 countries in the global Jewish learning endeavor. Limmud was founded in the United Kingdom in 1980 and has since expanded to include communities in Venezuela, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Poland, New Zealand, and across the former Soviet Union.
“We were thrilled as one after another participant from across Seattle’s Jewish spectrum told us how they felt enriched and excited to be here,” said Limmud Seattle’s founding co-chairman, Robert Hovden. “That was the very atmosphere we had dreamed to create when we started planning this gathering 18 months ago. Given the mix of topics and speakers, we know this will become an annual event.”
Planned and led by some 200 volunteers, Limmud Seattle offered 70 sessions that spanned topics such as Jewish attitudes toward tobacco, alcohol and cannabis; Jewish identity; Israel’s Jewish renaissance; Sephardic Jewish history; Torah and philosophy; social justice; ethics and activism; mindfulness; and art.
“This weekend was over the moon,” said participant Judith Benjamin. “Making over 500 people so happy is quite an achievement.”
Presenters included Jorge Baron, the executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project; former MK Ruth Calderon, a secular scholar of Talmud spearheading efforts in Israel to revive Hebrew culture and a pluralistic Israeli-Jewish identity; and Isaac Azose, educator, cantor and author of several books, including a prayer book created for the Seattle Sephardic community.
“The quality and range of presentations was not only impressive, it did an excellent job of showcasing the most important parts of what Jewish culture in Seattle actually is and aspires toward across the board,” said attendee Mai Li Pittard. “I feel like I can finally understand for the first time what it actually means to be Jewish in Seattle, rather than just Jewish for myself.”
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., the festival concluded with a musical celebration of freedom, justice and unity, including songs composed specifically for Limmud Seattle.
“Our goal was to create a space for Jews of all backgrounds to gather and feel welcome in an environment of respect and celebration,” said Limmud Seattle’s founding co-chairwoman, Deb Arnold. “Limmud is unique in its ability to bring a community together. Feeling the excitement and energy of learning and connection today was thrilling, especially for everyone who worked so hard to bring this festival to life.”