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|Type||Jewish Educational Charity No. 1083414|
Limmud is a British-Jewish educational charity which produces a large annual winter conference and several other events around the year on the theme of Jewish learning. Limmud is not affiliated to any strand of Judaism and markets itself as open to "anyone interested in Jewish learning".
Conceptually the conference and organization originally based itself on CAJE, the Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education of North America, that had been formed 4 years earlier in 1976. From CAJE, it took a volunteer ethos, not paying presenters, and not using titles. CAJE was strictly aimed at those involved in education and as such Limmud was originally a conference for "educators". During the 1990s there was the significant change as Limmud reinvented itself as a community gathering, giving rise to a significant increase in the number of attendees and leading it to be described as "a youth camp for all ages", "a JCC without walls", "British Jewry's greatest export". One thing that sets Limmud apart from other similar organizations is that the events are organised by volunteers who participate as equals in the conference.
Today around the Jewish world there are thousands of volunteers creating Limmud conferences. Limmud's largest group of volunteers are in their 20s and 30s making it unique in the Jewish world where leadership and power are rarely invested in this age-group and hence they are rarely involved.
Around half of the UK "Forty under 40" (a community-wide initiative to identify the future leaders of British Jewry published by London Jewish News) volunteered for Limmud and the recently retired Chair of Limmud, Elliott Goldstein, topped the list.
Limmud comes from the Hebrew word meaning "learning," and is a name meant to reflect the goal of the organization.
- 1 History of Limmud (1980-2010) 
- 2 Volunteers / Professionals
- 3 Core values and principles that define the essence of Limmud
- 4 Limmud Events in the UK
- 5 Limmuds around the world
- 6 Relationships with Orthodoxy in Britain
- 7 References
- 8 External links
First period (1980-1989)
Following a visit sponsored by the World Jewish Congress to CAJE, Limmud was co-founded in Britain by Clive Lawton, Alistair Falk, Michael May and Rabbi Michael Rosen zl. In its first decade, Alistair played the core role in the development of the organisation with figures such as Steve Miller, Tina Elliott and Alan Wilkinson. During this period Limmud was a conference for "educators". Funding bodies were concerned by the number of full-time educators present. After initial growth, numbers at the annual conference stayed between 150 and 250.
Second Period (1989-1997)
The second decade was dominated by first challenges to the base funding, then challenges to the organisation's existence, before Limmud was able to turn these into the foundations of its future success. A key moment took place in Brighton in 1990 after Alistair Falk stood down as Chair and the committee faced an uncertain future. None of the committee felt equipped to take on the leadership though a group of committed Limmudniks filled the vacuum as Andrew Gilbert was convinced to become the Chair (a position he was to hold for the following seven years). In the first period the critical support came from regular attendees including David & Stephanie Hilton, Jonathan Gorsky, Brian Harris, Neil Turner Nash, Judy Trotter, Laurie Rosenberg, Maureen Kendler and Sonia Sondhelm. Then came the people crisis as the Conservative Minister of Education introduced training days for professional educators greatly reducing the availability of teachers to construct the programme. The vacuum was initially filled by younger dynamic people who were graduates of youth and student movements such as Simon Klarfeld, Joel Levy, Gideon Sylvester and Rob Rabinowitz. By 1994 this had become more of a flood led by Natan Tiefenbrun as large groups of UJS and youth movement activists became central to the leadership of Limmud. In 1992 a vision had been established for a 5-year plan towards a conference of 500 people with Debbie Friedman, Rabbi Yitz and Blu Greenberg and Avraham Infeld as well as extended home lead presenters. This was achieved in 1994 as the UK Conference hit 500 with those guests. Limmud's UK Conference continues to take place annually at Universities around the UK between Xmas and New Year now achieving a gathering of nearly 2,500 Jews, about 1% of British Jewry.
Third Period (1997-2005)
Over the Nineties and Noughties the volunteers continued to come forward to lead Limmud Conference and develop new initiatives such as Limmud Fest (a summer more outdoor version). In 1997 Natan Tiefenbrun and Judy Trotter became the co-chairs of Limmud and Clive Lawton (one of the founders who had also been Headteacher of the King David School Liverpool and Director of Jewish Continuity) became part-time (about a day per week) Executive Director. Natan Tiefenbrun had been the National Secretary of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and Judy Trotter had been involved in Limmud for many years often running a commercial bookstall. Limmud continued to expand under their leadership though there was a great need for consolidation which was taken on board by their successors, Claire Strauss and Claire Mandel. Even though the conference was growing more slowly the events during the year continued to grow with first a Summer family camp backed by the Pincus Foundation, which became Limmud Fest. The day events calendar also grew from one or two events in earlier years to 4 or 5 events with some groups working on regular biennial cycles. During this third stage most international activity was embryonic and handled reactively by the Limmud Office.
Fourth Period (2005-2009)
One figure dominates the fourth stage of Limmud as Limmud grew from being a major part of British Jewry to a major part of world Jewry. Elliott Goldstein grew up in Northwood and went to Merchant Taylors School. He went on the Machon Madrichei Chutz L'aretz programme for AJ6 (the now defunct Association of Jewish Sixth Formers) where he became heavily involved with the UJIA's programmes in the Northern Galil (Britain's connection to Partnership 2000). On return to Britain in September 2000 where he studied Geography at Oxford University, he volunteered to become a madrich on the youth programme for Limmud's upcoming conference. Within two years, he was the Programme Chair of conference and then an exec member of Limmud, before becoming Chair of Limmud at the age of 25 in December 2005. Elliott built new partnerships and strengthened the base of Limmud in the UK. Together with Andrew Gilbert, who he appointed as Chair of Limmud International they harnessed the international Jewish community behind Limmud and rode a wave of interest that saw Limmud expand internationally from 6 groups to 45 groups worldwide during this period. The period culminated with the handing over of Limmud in the UK to Carolyn Bogush (who had been involved in Limmud for over 10 years and who had chaired the Conference and who is married to Gideon Smith, who has also been an executive member of Limmud and was Programme chair of Limmud in 1995 when Natan Tiefenbrun chaired Conference). Limmud International was also handed over to new co-chairs Helena Miller (who works as research director of the UK and who has been involved with Limmud since the first stage and whose husband Steve was one of the leaders of Limmud during the first stage) and to Uri Berkowitz (who had chaired Limmud Conference and been on the executive). Limmud International also added strength to its leadership with the appointment of Avraham Infeld as its Roving ambassador. Avraham Infeld had been Executive Director of Melitz, Hillel International, Birthright, Israel Experience and is one of the leading names in world Jewish informal education. Avraham is doing this in addition to his role with Nadav Foundation (see Ynet News)
Volunteers / Professionals
Whilst Limmud constantly struggles with keeping everything done by volunteers and allowing some professional back-up to allow volunteers to be more effective. In the early days volunteers were heavily involved in catering and even in avoiding using printers for handbooks, however with so many volunteers Limmud has moved towards a small back room team. Its first professional appointment in 1998 was of Clive Lawton as the Part Time Executive Director (1 day per week), who gradually became backed by a full-time administrator. In 2006 Limmud recruited its first full-time Executive Director . Raymond Simonson - former Director of UJIA Makor: The Centre for Informal Jewish Education.
Core values and principles that define the essence of Limmud
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The following values and principles are those towards which Limmud groups are striving, though Limmud recognises that local realities may make it difficult for all of them to be fully achieved immediately in every place.
Learning: we believe that every Jew should be a student and any Jew can be a teacher
Expanding Jewish horizons: we strive to create experiences which will allow all to strengthen their Jewish identity
Community and mutual responsibility: we strive to create community - together we can achieve more than as individuals
Commitment to respect: we expect our participants to act respectfully to each other, including to all volunteers. We believe it is important to make presenters’ biographies clear enough to aid informed choice. We are committed to treating all of our participants, and all sessions presented, with equal respect. No-one is more important than anyone else.
‘For the Sake of Heaven’: we do not seek to place greater or lesser value on one way of Jewish life, thinking or belief over any other
Religious observance: we recognise that in private areas people will behave as they choose, but we believe in the importance of enabling Shabbat and kashrut to be kept in all public areas as far as possible, so that Jews do not have to separate themselves one from another
Empowerment: we believe in the importance of supporting individuals to enable them to maximise their contribution to the community
Participation and voluntarism: we believe that all have an important contribution to make, and that this is best done through voluntarism. Limmud is not for profit but for the benefit of the community. As far as possible, any excess resources should always be ploughed back into improving Jewish education
Valuing diversity: we value choice, diversity and accessibility in all our learning. We seek to have the greatest possible diversity of Jews participate in our activities.
Enabling connections to be made: we strive to create opportunities for connections across communities and individuals, by providing the space for these to happen.
Limmud Events in the UK
Limmud Conference: is the organization's flagship event. More than 2,000 participants since the late 1990s have attended this event, which was inspired by the CAJE conference in the United States . The event takes place on a college campus in the last week of December. A typical day at Limmud's would include around 200 sessions spanning religious, cultural and political aspects of Jewish life. An example of the conference can be seen on line at Limmud Conference Programme by Session and Presenter 2009. After the first conferences at Carmel College, Limmud has been held at Portsmouth Poly (1985), Oxford Brookes University (1986–1994), Worcester(1995–96), Manchester (1997), Nottingham (1998–2005) and Warwick (2006–2011)
LimmudFest: is held in the last week of August, and is Limmud's Summer event and is promoted as "the UK Jewish community's answer to Glastonbury." It is mainly under canvas and has a less intense programme centred around Shabbat and is more cultural and outdoors than its winter sibling. It is well attended by young adults and young families.
Regional Day Limmud Events
Regional Day Limmud Events: The first Day Limmud was in Sheffield in the early 1980s though after that one has to wait until Leeds in the mid-1990s. Today there is a biennial cycle of over 12 centres which hold Limmud day events.
Other Limmud Events in UK
Other events run by Limmud in the UK either on their own or in partnership with others: music events, florence melton mini-school
Events inspired or encouraged by Limmud: NUMA
Limmuds around the world
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Since 1998, the Limmud model has spread to many other countries and there are now locally run Limmud events in the following. Each group produces unique conferences and festivals of Jewish learning and culture while adhering to the same core values of volunteerism, diversity, cross-communalism and open learning of Limmud. Each new Limmud event aims to reflect the diversity of its community by creating an accessible cross-communal and cross-generational experience.
North America: United States (New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago, Boston, Colorado and FSU) and Canada (Toronto, Winnipeg & Montreal)
Israel: Galil, Arava, Negev, Modiin and FSU Asia and Oceania: Australia (Sydney and Melbourne), Hong Kong and New Zealand
Western Europe: France (Paris and Lyon), Germany (Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt/M., Munich), Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden
Central Europe: Hungary, Poland, Romania (Bucharest, Timoasara & Iasi), Bulgaria, Ex-YU(Serbia/Croatia) and Turkey
Former Soviet Union: Russia (Moscow, Birobdijan), Ukraine (Yalta, Lviv and Odessa), Belarus, Baltics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania)
South America: Brazil, Argentina
Africa: South Africa (Johannesburg, Cape Town & Durban)
A delegation from Sydney, Australia came to Limmud's conference in 1996. This led to a Limmud OZ group being formed which launched its first activity in 1999 in Sydney. Later they went into an alternative years format with a biennial gathering in Melbourne. Through a joint venture with Partnership 2000 and Keren Hayesod Australia they have been the impetus for the launch in 2009 of the Limmud Arava programme which replicates the UK relationship with the Northern Galil.
In June 2012, Limmud Oz announced that the following pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions groups would not be allowed to participate: "Vivienne Porzsolt, a spokeswoman for Jews Against the Occupation, who was detained in Israel last year en route to the flotilla to Gaza; Avigail Abarbanel, the editor of Beyond Tribal Loyalties, who renounced her Israeli citizenship in 2001; and Peter Slezak, a co-founder of the far-left advocacy group Independent Australian Jewish Voices." In addition, they are allowing "the president of the Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network, a representative of the Islamic Council of Victoria and a Palestinian academic."
Limmud in Western Europe
Netherlands: There had been growing numbers coming from Holland to the Limmud conference in the UK such that in 1998 they decided they wished to have a day event in Amsterdam. This was run with the help of the Jewish Welfare Board and was hosted for a number of years. As of the period from 2007 on, it was run strictly as a volunteer-run event. In 2010, Limmoed NL ran from Sunday evening to Monday during a holiday-weekend.
Switzerland: As they decided to pay presenters, they ran a Limmud inspired activity called Yom Iyun in Basle and in more recent years in Zurich.
France: Formed in 2005 the Limmud France group has been led by Ruth Ouzana since its formation. It has held an annual gathering in Paris each November and smaller day events in Lyon and this year in Paris.
Germany: Sophie Mahlo, Toby Axelrod and others have organized annual multi-day Limmud festivals since 2008 near Berlin, and they are now helping local teams run one-day events in other cities, including Munich, Cologne/NRW and Frankfurt.
Sweden: Educators from the Hillel school in Stockholm have been coming since the 1980s to Limmud. Rabbi Morton Narrowe, then Chief Rabbi of Stockholm, led a larger group in the early 1990s. In 1994 the community dovetailed a tour with Debbie Friedman and the Kelmans with Limmud in the UK. However it was not until 2008 that Limmud Stockholm launched its first activity.
In Lund, a University town in Southern Sweden, a Limmud Lund launched its first activity in March 2012 ("LundaLimmud").
Limmud in Central Europe
In 2002 Andres Spokoiny, then JDC Baltics Director, who had been to Limmud as a young youthworker in 1992. Limmud in the Baltics has had its conferences in Vilnius and has gathered over 1000 people from a Baltics Jewish Community of less than 20,000. Since 2005 with the support of the JDC Limmud has expanded with Limmud groups in Hungary, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and Serbia/Croatia(ExYu).
After years of planning by local volunteers, Limmud Toronto was first held on 21 November 2004 at York University. Over 400 participants enjoyed close to 50 sessions, including a Young Limmud program for children aged 5 to 12. Three years later on 2 December 2007, Limmud Toronto was held at the University of Toronto. Despite coinciding with the first major snowfall of the year, the conference drew nearly 500 enthusiastic, however late, participants. Limmud Toronto had its third conference, again at the University of Toronto, on 15 February 2009. As of February 2010, plans are underway for Limmud 2011.
Limmud started in Turkey in 2005 with the introduction of the project by Lina Filiba from the Turkish Jewish Community and with the leadership of Gina Alkash and Tony Hananel working together with an active volunteer steering committee as well as a group of young adult volunteers from the Jewish Community in Istanbul. Regularly attracting over 1100 people to their activities, Limmud Turkey takes place once a year in autumn.
Limmud in Israel
Limmud in the Galil started through the connection between the British Jewish Community and its Partnership 2000 community in the Northern Galil. First conference in 2001. Limmud FSU (for Russian speakers) held in first conference in Ashkelon in 2007, followed by conferences in Jerusalem starting in 2008. Limmud Arava commencing in 2009 was based on the Galil P2k model and came from the Australian P2k link. Limmud Negev and Limmud Modiin starting in 2009 and 2010 have been developed in conjunction with Melitz and the local communities. Limmud Modiin Will held its first event in June 2010. Limmud Jerusalem held an event on 10 May 2012.
Limmud in USA
New York 2005, Los Angeles 2008, Colorado 2008, Atlanta 2008, Philly 2009, NOLA 2010, Chicago 2010, Boston 2010
Chaim Chesler, former Treasurer of the Jewish Agency, and long time Soviet Jewry activist, attended Limmud in the UK and believed that Limmud could make an impact on the FSU. Together with Co-Chair Sandy Cahn, a leader of the New York Jewish community, they have created a cadre of volunteers who have created major Limmud activities for young Russians in several cities including gatherings in Moscow (2005 & 2010), Ukraine (2007, 2009 & 2010), Israel (2007 & 2010), Birobidzhan (2009), New York (2009 & 2010), and New Jersey (2012 & 2013).
Limmud South Africa
In 2009 Limmud International approved success criteria by which it would be possible to assess the extent to which groups around the world successfully conformed to Limmud's values and ethos.
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Limmud International Success Indicators (2008 and 2009)
Clive Lawton wrote in 2008 that "The private magic of what motivates each Jew on their own Jewish journey should be treated with the proper respect that private matters deserve. Hence below are a series of 'externalised' indicators which do not try to decide what constitutes success for each individual Jew participating in Limmud events - beyn Adam l'makom! - but if many of these indicators were heading in the right direction at once, we could be sure that something substantial and significant was happening, enabling us to assert that Limmud was a 'success' in that particular community. These indicators are intended to be assessed over time - say two or three events. We should acknowledge the limitations of drawing conclusions of significant value simply out of the buzz of a single event. You will note that not one refers to programme or education as such. Those are taken as given and we don't have to measure what we can all see!"
• Numbers attending - not raw, but both proportionate to numbers of Jews in relevant area and in relation to other 'big' events in the community. This would indicate Limmud's reach.
• Range of participants - age and denomination, but equally important, whether it drew in at least some unaffiliated. Gather some anecdotal references to people who connected up from nowhere. This would indicate Limmud’s exceptional reach.
• Community leaders - did any key community leaders - and not the usual suspects who attend all such things! - come to be simple participants (besides perhaps also being presenters)? This would indicate that possibly the traditional hierarchies were being addressed and attacked.
• Recognition - who, if anyone, was honoured or recognised? If asked, who would ordinary punters value for being there? This would indicate that, at Limmud, contribution to the event in whatever way was being valued above status or fame.
• Local educators - were any new presenters created and have they since presented anywhere else? This would indicate that Limmud was developing educational resources and vision within that community.
• Team – is the team diverse and does it include people who have not previously been involved in volunteering for anything in the community? Are there opportunities for volunteers to develop their roles, skill sand experiences through their Limmud involvement? This would indicate that Limmud was helping create leadership in the community.
• Recruitment - how many new volunteers signed up to help next time? This will indicate whether Limmud is both motivating and whether or not it successfully got across its message of volunteer participation being key.
• Spin-offs - can any consequences of the Limmud event be identified in the community - either public or private e.g. friends studying in chavruta weekly; other organisations offering choice in their next programme; overseas presenter invited back to do more teaching in the community; increased funding being voted by community leadership to Limmud or other educational activity. This would indicate that Limmud was impacting on individual and collective priorities.
• Finance - Increased financial support from local sources; and greater diversity of funding. This would indicate that Limmud was materially valued, and help ensure it does not become "owned" by one funding organisation or individual
• Price - raising the price to more realistic levels did not materially impact on recruitment. This would indicate that local people were increasingly prepared to spend money on attending Limmud implying how much they valued it. Also potentially indicates a shift in community values.
• Need/Uniqueness - is Limmud recognised as offering something that is new and/or different; and is not duplicating or competing in substance with what is already there? It may be in terms of what it offers or who it attracts.
• Sustainability - does it create a structure and spirit that can continue beyond an initial launch event (e.g. without solely relying on very few individuals?). This would indicate that its strength goes beyond a one-off event.
• Emerging Leadership – does the leadership grow and is it refreshed and renewed? Does the leadership bring their experience of Limmud into the wider community? Is there a leadership development programme and process within Limmud? Does leadership emerge and is there an open process for governance?
Relationships with Orthodoxy in Britain
Limmud has been seen as controversial by parts of the right wing of Centrist Orthodoxy. The former London Beth Din's Head Dayan (Judge,) Hannoch Ehrentreu, advised Orthodox Rabbis not to attend Limmud Conference. Some Orthodox Figures such as Rabbi Yossi Chazan of Manchester and Organisations such as the Rabbinic Council of the Provinces and the London and Manchester and Federation Beth Dins (Rabbinic Courts.) have rejected attendance at Limmud Conference. However as rabbis continue to attend it seems that this is not the only factor influencing United synagogue rabbis.
Orthodox rabbis of course represent a wide spectrum. Despite the controversy, well known Rabbis have chosen to attend Limmud events across the UK, and there has not been a single major Limmud event - Regional Day Limmuds, Conference or Fest - in recent years that has not had at least one or more Orthodox rabbis amongst the presenters. Amongst the more well known of these are R' Norman Lamm (former President, Yeshivah University), R' Shlomo Riskin (the Chief Rabbi of Efrat), R' Abraham Levy (the spiritual leader of the Spanish and Portuguese Communities), R' Nathan Lopes Cardozo, R' Joseph Telushkin, Dayan Michael Broyde, R' Michael Melchior, R' Yitz Greenberg, Dr Raphael Zarum (Dean of London School of Jewish Studies) and Richard Joel, the current President of Yeshivah University. From the UK many United Synagogue pulpit rabbis have attended Limmud including Rabbi Michael Harris, Rabbi Naftali Brawer, Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, Rabbi Reuven Livingstone and Rabbi Zvi Solomons. In December 2010 Rabbi Yitzchak Shochect of Mill Hil United Synagogue, who had been seen as a notable absentee and critic of Limmud, attended, participated in and taught at Limmud's 30th annual Conference. Following this he wrote on the synagogue's website: "upon return all I could ask myself was, 'where was I until now?'" (When Lightning Didn't Strike).
Many Presidents of the United Synagogue have also been seen at Limmud events including Sidney Frosh (Limmud Conference 1997), Seymour G. Saideman (Limmud Lay Leadership Days 1995 and 1996), Elkan Levy and most recently Dr Simon Hochhauser. Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has not attended Limmud whilst being Chief Rabbi but attended when he was the head of Jews College. He last attended in 1987 when he spent shabbat at Limmud and gave a shiur on Soloveitchik's HaKnesset Israel. Chief Rabbi Sacks when looking back on his rabbinate considers Limmud to be one of the great successes of his time.(Big Think Interview With Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks)
Controversy erupted again in late 2013 when newly elected Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis announced his decision to attend. Subsequently, a public notice signed by seven leading Orthodox rabbis including Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu and Rabbi Avrohom Gurwicz, was published in the Jewish Tribune which attacked pluralism and urged "God-fearing Jews" not to participate in Limmud. This sparked condemnation by non-Charedi communal leaders, with Jewish Leadership Council chairman Mick Davis, Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman and United Synagogue president Stephen Pack, writing to the Jewish Chronicle saying that the statement showed "a shocking failure of leadership." The Jewish Chronicle itself described the statement as "crass, ill-judged and ultimately self-defeating."
- History of Limmud (1980-2010): based on published history in Limmud handbooks and the minutes of the organisation
- Australian Jewish conference cancels far-left speakers, renewing controversy
- "Limmud backlash over visit by Chief"
- "Chief Rabbi Mirvis's dignified silence"
- Limmud (UK parent organisation)