September 5, 2016 – Activists from Limmuds in the United States and Canada convened their first summit to establish a regional Limmud hub in North America. They voted to form a representative council comprised of members of each North American group and set up a 501c3, in order to advance regional development and support for local groups, and maximize pooled software and other systems. The initiative was launched as Limmud International celebrates its 10th anniversary.
Held September 1-2, 2016, the summit was hosted by LimmudFest Atlanta + Southeast (SE), which immediately followed over Labor Day Weekend, at Ramah Darom Retreat Center in Clayton, GA.
“This summit was the brainchild of Limmud volunteers from communities across the US and Canada,” said Limmud trustee Karen Radkowsky, a senior research executive at Ketchum in New York. “Celebrating 10 years of Limmud International, we are committed to fostering the development of our groups around the world and confident we can promote capacity building and consistency among communities.”
Limmud has seen remarkable growth in North America. In 2015, nearly 10,000 people participated in Limmud events from Atlanta to the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg, to name a few. New Limmud groups are set to launch in the coming months. Reflecting the pulse of North American Jewry, they draw Jews of all ages, backgrounds, and religious affiliations – or no affiliation.
“Limmud is connecting with all parts of Jewish life in North America,” said Limmud Chief Executive Eli Ovits. “And, it’s a proven platform for leadership development that has an impact well beyond the organization itself. These activists are their communities’ most valuable assets. With their finger on the pulse, they shared issues their communities are encountering, as well as the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
In evaluating their local festivals and events, Limmud communities in North America consistently report they are
- Nurturing a young leadership cadre of volunteers who are impacting the Jewish community outside Limmud, as well
- Reaching under- and non-engaged Jews of all ages, especially young adults and families;
- Providing a platform for Jews to grapple with issues facing American Jewry – from Jewish identity to Israel and everything in between – in a respectful, inclusive, thought-provoking atmosphere.
“Limmud has been my inspiration over the past 15 years,” said Eric M. Robbins, who, with Jodi Mansbach, brought Limmud to Atlanta a decade ago and is the new president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. “Limmud has brought me together with a diverse community locally, nationally and internationally to build a community that learns from each other, has fun with each other and struggles with the issues we face as a people and a society. It’s fluid and it’s built by us and it’s a model of what a strong Jewish community can be.
“As individual communities each build what’s best for them, we as a North American community can learn from each other. This movement lends to the definition of what Jewish life will evolve into during these rapidly changing times.”
Last year, more than 39,000 people took part in Limmud events produced by over 3,000 volunteers in 83 communities spanning 43 countries and six continents. Limmud was established in the UK in 1980.
“Limmud International is confident and committed to helping our extraordinary volunteers become even stronger and expand even more,” said Limmud International Steering Group member Shep Rosenman, who anchored and facilitated the summit. He is an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles in his day job. “In the past, local teams and boards created compelling events with a lot of inspiration and some guidance from the wider Limmud movement.
“The newly-established regional hub will allow Limmud International to professionalize further support to and capacity for local groups. This includes upgrading volunteer training and systems, facilitating marketing and promoting collective funding for larger projects.”