In a series of interviews with Limmud activists around the world, here we celebrate a key activist involved in prioritising the grassroots volunteerism of Limmud Netherlands. Meet Emma Sevitt, President, Limmud Netherlands:
What did you want to achieve when you started Limmud Netherlands?
I didn’t start Limmud Netherlands, or Limmoed as we call it over here. The concept had been brought to the Netherlands years before we began it as a volunteer organization, run through a long standing Jewish organization. What we did was transform it into a volunteer based event. However, when the small group of us “started” Limmud, our goal was to create an event that was attractive to all types of Jewish communities in Holland. The community has a history of being very disparate, and our hope was that Limmud would be an opportunity for mutual engagement and learning.
Why is Limmud a good model for engagement?
Limmud is a good model for engagement as it enables people to come together without a title and without affiliation. Limmud is a community of learners and teachers who are there to embrace the essence of education and opportunity, no matter with whom. It is exciting to learn from people of different ages, Jewish backgrounds, genders, experts and beginners together. It is also an excellent model for engagement as it provides choice. Throughout each moment in the day there are opportunities for a variety of learning – so that there is a place for everyone. Limmud does shmooze very well – and Limmud Netherlands is no different. It is a place to connect and re-connect and hence it is an excellent model.
What challenges have you faced?
We have faced considerable challenges over the years. It is not always easy to convince local presenters to come and present just for the sake of learning. Many presenters are bound to their community and to step out of that community is challenging for them and therefore for us. We want to ensure that we attract a range of people from the Jewish community and Limmud took some time to become a part of the Dutch Jewish calendar.
What are your proudest achievements at Limmud Netherlands?
Linked to what I have said previously, our proudest achievement is that in some way we have been able to overcome our challenge – and that all sorts of Jews from Holland and local environs volunteer and participate in Limmud. From the extremely Orthodox to the completely unaffiliated, young and old as well as Amsterdamers and those from more remote parts of the country. Limmud has engaged them in questions about the past, present and future.
What is the most important advice you would give to other Limmud groups?
The most important advice was given to me from other Limmud volunteers. Often people complain – it is easy to complain. They complain about the food, they complain about the lack of presenters coming to speak about a particular theme. They complain about the music, they complain about the programme book. It is essential to put the complaints into the hands of the participants. If they want to see something different, then bring them on board. Use them as a springboard for positive change. Don’t always feel that you have to change because of their complaints. Get them to ensure that your future Limmud is to their liking by enabling them. It makes all the difference!
interview courtesy Limmud International
images courtesy Limmud Netherlands