Nearly 500 people gathered on Sunday, June 14, 2015, at Instituto Hebreo Chaim Weitzman in Santiago for Limud Chile’s launch on the coldest day of the year to date. With the temperature hovering at -3 Centigrade outside, adults and children stayed warm expanding their Jewish horizons in one of 30+ sessions, panels, and workshops during the daylong Jewish learning festival.
“The core volunteer team succeeded in creating a pluralistic framework which included even Jews who until now were only tenuously affiliated,” said Viviana Kremer, a Limud Buenos Aires volunteer who imported the Limmud model when she moved with her family to Santiago two years ago. “We had 60 kids in the children’s track, too.”
The event was produced by a 35-member core team. Eschewing formal titles, each member assumed responsibility for a specific area, like programming, logistics, communications, etc.
“Being part of the Limud Chile Core team has been one of my personal greatest experiences,” recounted Abraham Yudelevich. “We’re looking forward to putting on a few smaller ‘Express’ Limuds for our volunteers until the next big event.”
The opening plenary on Chile’s future featured three former Cabinet members and two CEOs of top joint government-private sector companies – all Jewish. They included journalist and former Mining Minister Karen Poniachik; Eduardo Bitran, past Infrastructure Minister and current Executive Vice President of the Chilean agency overseeing development, innovation and investment; economist Eduardo Engel who was appointed by President Michelle Bachellet to produce guidelines on ethics and good government; Alvaro Fisher, former director and CEO of Fundacion Chile; and, presidential appointee Patricio Meller, also of Fundacion Chile.
Eighty-five percent of Chile’s 15,000 Jews live in Santiago, the capital. The community can trace its roots to Conversos, Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism who secretly continued to practice Judaism, who accompanied the earliest explorers. (The Inquisition followed them. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, The persecution of Conversos ceased when the country gained formal independence from Spain in 1818.)
The last year has seen inaugural Limmud events in Italy, Barcelona, Haifa, Uruguay, Mar del Plata in Argentina, Phoenix, and Tel Aviv.
“We welcome Limud Chile to the global Limmud community,” said Limmud International Chair David Bilchitz. “Its inaugural conference has been an amazing success and adds a vibrancy and unique flavor to the Limmud family.’