Limmud to reach milestone with first gathering in China

Confab to debate future of Jews in the country in light of its growing economic and political clout.

china flag 311 (photo credit: Jason Lee / Reuters)
china flag 311
(photo credit: Jason Lee / Reuters)
Since its founding in a shack in London over 30 years ago, Limmud gatherings have been held in dozens of countries, but on Sunday the network of Jewish education confabs will reach a new milestone when it holds its first-ever event in China.
About 100 participants are registered to attend the event, held outside Beijing, which will feature workshops on Asian-Jewish cooking, debates on the Torah and Talmud and a speech delivered by Limmud founder Clive Lawton on why, contrary to popular opinion, Jews are the luckiest people in the history of the world.
Though the number of participants is modest by international standards – the last Limmud UK in Coventry drew 2,500 people and Limmud FSU, the Russian-speaking branch of the network, has thousands taking part in its series of yearly gatherings around the globe – organizers say it is a good start.
“Until recently, the small but growing Jewish community of Beijing has been somewhat isolated from the mainstream Jewish world,” said Roberta Lipson, director and cofounder of Kehilat Beijing and one of Limmud China’s local volunteer organizers.
“Although we have had the honor of being a Jewish touch-point to increasing numbers of Jewish travelers to China, hosting the upcoming Limmud will bring us closer to other Jewish communities from around the region and binds us with a worldwide tradition of Jewish communal learning.”
The event has the full backing – and perhaps more importantly, the funding – of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and Limmud International.
“One of the hallmarks of JDC’s work globally has been its ability to unite Jews locally, regionally, and internationally in the pursuit of innovating Jewish life, education, and culture,” said JDC’s outgoing CEO Steven Schwager.
Several thousand Jews currently live and work in China. As the country’s economic and political clout continues to grow, that number is expected to rise. Their future in the country in particular and in Asia as a whole will be one of the top issues debated at the conference.
Of course, the Jewish presence on the continent is nothing new. It is easy to forget Jews are themselves indigenous Asians originally hailing from Southwest Asia, a region that most Europeans are probably more familiar with as the Middle East.