All I Want for Christmas is Limmud

by Jason Caplin

London, 21 December – Limmud Conference, the Jewish festival of learning, celebrates its 30th birthday in style next week. Almost 2,500 participants of all Jewish backgrounds, ages and nationalities will come together for 6 days of learning in Limmud’s unique style, where everyone is a student and anyone can be a teacher.

“Putting this year’s Conference together, we’re building on thirty years of experience, reputation, innovation and passion,” says Danielle Nagler, one of Conference 2010’s two voluntary co-chairs. Together with co-chair Steven Fisher and over 200 volunteers, the Conference team is preparing to take over Warwick University, filling every student room and every available lecture room, theatre and gallery on campus to create an immersive learning experience.

In celebration of Limmud’s anniversary, the largest hall on site has been converted into a cabaret theatre for nightly birthday parties, an art gallery celebrates participants’ own Jewish journeys in the ‘Museum of Us’, and Jewish global leaders have been invited to showcase their most treasured Jewish artefacts as part of a ‘History of the Jewish World in 30 Objects’.

“For Limmud, our 30th birthday is definitely not our coming of age,” says Dan Jacobs, this year’s Chair of Programming. “Limmud has become a byword for great Jewish learning. But there’s no time to rest on our laurels – we have to keep broadening our horizons, building knowledge, creating connections, starting debates, pushing the boundaries of learning and understanding, and taking our participants one step further on their Jewish journeys.”

Participants at this year’s Conference will choose from a smorgasbord of over 1000 sessions, delivered by over 400 presenters, including lectures, drama and music performances, debates, Limmud’s famous chavruta (one-on-one learning) project and participative interactions. For the first time, sessions will be live streamed over the Internet, available from Limmud’s homepage and eJewish Philanthropy, as well as from a number of popular websites. Visitors worldwide will be able to watch John Ging, director of the UN’s Relief and Works Agency in Gaza in conversation with human rights activist and communal rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg; Miri Eisen, former Israeli government spokesperson and one of the few women to reach the rank of Colonel in the IDF ; Shlomo Riskin, founding rabbi of the Upper West Side’s Lincoln Square Synagogue and current Chief Rabbi of Efrat; Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s resident expert on antisemitism; and star of hit television programme The Naked Archaeologist, Simcha Jacobovici. Participants at Conference will also be treated to intimate sets with Israeli indie sensation Onili and American Jewish star Sam Glaser; sing along with the godmother of Jewish songbooks Debbie Friedman and take part in scratch choirs with renowned conductor Stephen Glass.

“Limmud is a journey for the individual and the whole community,” says co-chair Steven Fisher. “The entire event – the programme, our beautiful Shabbat atmosphere, the accommodation, the catering, even the drinks at the bar – are organised by volunteers, with as little professional support as we can manage. Limmud is a community of leadership. All our team members have real lives – children, jobs, study and other full-time commitments.

“As chairs, this has been a momentous year for Danielle and me, supporting 200 young leaders in putting this incredible event together. I only hope that the thousands of Conference participants arriving next week feel so inspired by their effort that they join the team in 2011.”

Limmud Conference in the UK marks the end of a memorable year for Limmud, with over 35,000 people having participated in at least one Limmud event somewhere in the Jewish world – from Boston to Budapest, Jerusalem to Johannesburg, Manchester to Moscow, Stockholm to Sydney – and most places in between.

A small number of last-minute places are still available for this year’s Limmud Conference, taking place at Warwick University between 24 and 30 December 2010 – book online for the best rates.

Jason Caplin is a Limmud volunteer.

About: Limmud is one of the most exciting and innovative educational organisations in the British-Jewish community and one of the most dynamic projects currently in the Jewish world. In 2010, Limmud’s 30th birthday year, over 7,000 British Jews from every background, opinion and age will have participated in a Limmud event.

Limmud Conference, Limmud’s flagship event, attracts around 2,500 participants each winter. Limmud Fest, the Jewish festival of learning and culture, celebrated its sixth birthday this summer. Regional Day Limmud events take place around the UK all year long, in locations including Hackney, Leeds, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Manchester and Glasgow.

All Limmud events are organised by volunteers – over 700 in the UK alone. Dame Julia Neuberger, when in post as the British Government’s Volunteering Champion, described Limmud as ‘a shining example of British grassroots volunteerism.’

Limmud’s model of cross-communal Jewish education has been replicated across the world. Well over 35,000 people have participated in Limmud events around the world over the past year, all inspired by the Jewish learning Conference we created thirty years ago in the UK. Supported by our Limmud International volunteer team, communities as diverse as Odessa, Istanbul, Los Angeles, Belarus, Melbourne, New York, Buenos Aries and The Galil, appreciate that Limmud provides a model of invigoration and development for communities large and small.

Limmud’s aim is to enable each participant to take one step further on their own Jewish journey, by offering access to some of the world’s most dynamic Jewish educators, performers and teachers in an accessible, encouraging cross-communal setting.

For more information on Limmud, please call the Executive Director, Raymond Simonson, on +44 20 3115 1620 or email