The first Limmud India on November 3, 2013, drew about 150 Jews from across India including Israel’s Consul General in Mumbai Jonathan Miller to a daylong festival of Jewish learning and living. Organized by a corps of young volunteers, with guidance and support from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and Limmud International, participants ranged in age from four to 80.
“Five of us were at Destination Shanghai last April and we were exhilarated by the concept and vitality of Limmud China,” said Nurith Samuel, a 26-year-old organizer. “We felt the Indian Jewish community needs something just like that. So we pulled this initial gathering together as soon as possible. We expect the next Limmud India to be even bigger!”
Jews have lived in India since antiquity where they developed a unique culture and traditions. Today the largest communities are in Mumbai and Thane with smaller ones existing in Pune, Delhi, Kerala, Ahmadebad and Kolkata. Despite being relatively few in number, an estimated 4,500, Indian Jews have built and maintained strong communal institutions with help from overseas partners like JDC.
Along with panels on the future of Indian Jewry and successful Jews in business, the Limmud event also featured workshops on healthy Jewish cooking and krav maga, the art of self-defense Israel style. Young Limmud participants learned about Jewish heroes, took a mini-Hebrew ulpan, produced an art mascot and, like their adult counterparts, enjoyed Israeli dancing. Leading restaurateur Isaac Varsulkar – who recently opened the first kosher restaurant in the neighbourhood of Thane – was in attendance and provided catering for the event. So was chef Moshe Shek, owner of Moshe’s, a popular chain of eateries in Mumbai, who taught local Jews how to make foods they might be less familiar with like tabbouleh, a Middle-Eastern salad.