Beginning today, thousands of participants from 38 countries are converging at Limmud Festival 2017, the flagship gathering of the worldwide organization, to celebrate Jewish learning and culture in Birmingham, UK.
“Our tireless volunteers have created Limmud Festival 2017, which is authentically ‘Made by You,’ from the program to the ambience,” said Limmud Festival Co-Chair Abigail Jacobi, 26, who grew up attending Limmud events. In her day job, Jacobi is a Family Support Worker at a Sure Start Centre for children with multiple disabilities.
Limmud brings together people across the spectrum of observance, affiliation, and opinion to learn, discuss controversial topics, and celebrate the process. “This year, with over 600 presenters, we’ll address hot-button issues including antisemitism in politics and on campus, and bring to the fore an essential conversation about mental health in our community,” explained Programming Co-Chair Daniel Heller. “Not only will we look at #Metoo in the Tanach, we’ll spotlight gender bias and attempts to exclude women from the public sphere. We will also hear what happens to survivors of modern day slavery in the UK.”
On offer is a strikingly diverse program – 1,000 sessions spanning films, stand-up comedy, belly dancing, food and singing workshops, and performances. In keeping with the season, there will be a session on “Jesus and Judaism: Christmas for Jews;” in keeping with the latest from Washington, DC: “The Donald and the Jews;” and, in keeping with the significance of 2017, there will be presentations on the Balfour Declaration, the Russian Revolution and the UN Partition Plan.
Beyond Bible, Talmud and Chavruta, presenters will look at the intersection between football and business, developments in the Jewish LGBTQ world, and interfaith initiatives, as well as Israeli humanitarian relief efforts and Jewish social action from the UK to Ghana, India, Uganda, and Myanmar. Presentations like “50 Shades of Great: Exploring Jewish sexuality” are a draw; others may prefer the tattoo artist who supplies Jews the world over with Hebrew calligraphy designs.
Many partner organizations bring presenters to Limmud Festival, including the Jewish Agency for Israel, Yesod, and others, further enriching the program.
“For the first time, we’re emphasizing three key topics impacting our Jewish identities – brit milah, miscarriage and infertility, questioning key assumptions and sharing personal stories in a safe space. Disability inclusion is also an important theme, with some of the most impassioned disability inclusion advocates presenting,” added Festival Co-Chair Anna Lawton. Anna also grew up in Limmud as her father, Clive, co-founded Limmud in 1980.
The Limmud International Advisory Council will hold its first in-person meeting at Limmud Festival 2017; and 34 independent Limmud groups are participating in the Limmud Development and Connection Program, which facilitates connections between Limmud activists around the world.
The Limmud Development Connection is generously supported by UJA-Federation of New York, The Natan Fund, and others.