September 12, 2016 – Thanks to a new grant from UJA-Federation of New York, Limmud for the first time offered financial sustainability training in Prague to Jewish activists from 19 communities spanning Europe, 8-11 September 2016. The gathering convened as Limmud International celebrates its 10th anniversary.
“Limmud is redoubling training and support for Limmud communities in eastern, central and western Europe,” said Limmud International Chair David Bilchitz, a professor of law at the University of Johannesburg. “Limmud was founded and is headquartered in the UK. This Limmud training in Prague is proof we intend to bolster Jewish culture across the continent, notwithstanding Brexit.”
“We are able to do this thanks to our visionary partners. Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe led the way,” he continued. “Together with The Natan Fund and, most recently, UJA-Federation of New York, Limmud volunteers from across Europe, of all ages and all or no affiliations could take advantage of travel subsidies to Prague where they benefited from cutting-edge training, first and foremost in financial sustainability.”
The Limmud Training on Tour facilitators came up through the Limmud ranks in their local communities, including first-timer Judith Offman. A member of the UK Limmud leadership, she is an epidemiologist and cancer researcher in prevention, screening and early diagnosis, with a PhD in genome stability; she is also studying for an MSc in Epidemiology.
The other first-time facilitators included Ruth Ouazana, a lawyer who founded Limoud France and heads the International Forum of Jewish Scouts; Limmud Serbia’s Mina Pasajlic, a graduate of the Paideia Institute who is programme director at Szarvas camp; and Budapest native Tamas Büchler, who sits on the Limmud International Steering Group and directs Jewish Agency initiatives in Hungary.
“Over the last decade, Limmud has cultivated a cadre of dynamic young leaders in Europe who are now stepping up to train their peers for the next decade of leadership,” said Limmud Chief Executive Eli Ovits. “This gathering underscored yet again that Limmud is the distinctive voice of international Jewish culture. It is the Jewish world as welcoming, as diverse, and as inclusive as it comes.”
Defying the widespread perception that mounting antisemitism and terror is fueling emigration and fear, the Limmud activists were optimistic. They hailed from Barcelona, Belarus, Birmingham, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Helsinki, Hungary, Italy, London, Moldova, Moscow, Oresund, Serbia, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Ukraine and Vienna to share experiences, challenges and goals.
“We are on a positive trajectory,” affirmed Limoud France’s Ouazana. “I don’t dismiss the challenges. We are committed to deepening Jewish identity and strengthening Jewish culture, and, in the Limmud way, doing this as we continue to engage in current affairs, the environment, and interfaith dialogue informed by our Jewish values.”
Where 10 years ago there were 16 Limmud communities, today 83 communities boast Limmud Jewish learning festivals in 43 countries. In 2015, 39,000 people participated in a Limmud event, produced by 3,000 volunteers. Three thousand participants from 40 countries are expected to attend Limmud’s flagship Conference in Birmingham, UK, during Christmas week 2016.