By Martin Joseph
Haifa, known as Israel’s Red City for its staunchly secular, socialist orientation, saw its first Limmud learning festival in mid-November.
Over 200 participants, ranging in age from 12 to 85 and representing Haifa’s Jewish spectrum, chose from sessions on wine tasting and Israeli comedy, a Bible contest and chavruta dialogue, among others.
“Limmud Haifa embodies this city’s spirit of Jewish renewal,” Deputy Mayor Shay Blumenthal told the gathering as he thanked the volunteers.
Haifa’s Department of Education has been promoting Jewish renewal within the school system for the last six years. “We reach the pupils in school, but Limmud brings the Jewish renewal experience to the general public,” Ilana Trock, Haifa education department director and chair of Jewish renewal for the City of Haifa, told eJewishPhilanthropy. “People from all walks of life – from the shuk, from a lawyer’s office, from the university – everyone finds a place for themselves. On top of that, in this city, which is the most volunteering city in Israel, Limmud brings in fresh, enthusiastic volunteers.”
Limmud Haifa’s motto was “Broaden the framework of the Jewish story,” and it sought to do just that. “In Haifa, you have Jews, Muslim and Christians who live together in the same apartment buildings and neighborhoods. But you don’t have Jews of different identities and streams sharing their ideas,” said Limmud Haifa co-chair Golan Ben-Chorin. “Limmud gave us a place where we could openly explore together the Jewish story.”
Another highlight was the live-link, trans-Atlantic session with Limmud Boston, Haifa’s twin city.
On the other side of the world, Limud Uruguay held its first event in Montevideo. Although November 16 was the first day of summer vacation with perfect weather, 140 participants from secular to Chabad filled the sessions and the plenary.
“Our community comes together for Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut,” explained David Raij, of the Limud Uruguay steering committee, a veteran of Limud Buenos Aires who was determined to bring it to Uruguay. “But this is the first time people came from every part of the community to learn together. People kept telling me how impressed they were with that.”
Limmud Haifa and Limud Uruguay are the newest additions to Limmud’s global network. “We’re pleased they have joined our global learning community,” said Limmud International Chair David Hoffman. “Today, there are Limmud events in over 80 communities, spanning 40 countries and six continents. In October, Limmud India held its first two-day residential event. November also saw Limmud gatherings in Ottawa, Mexico, Ukraine, the Baltics, Chicago, Stockholm, Poland, Peru, St. Petersburg and Sydney.”
Limmud, which means “learning” in Hebrew, is the premier global Jewish learning movement. Its worldwide network of volunteers creates cross-communal, experiential Jewish learning events in their local communities. Founded in 1980 in the UK by a small group of volunteers for 80 participants, today there are 3,000 active volunteers around the world. An estimated 130,000 people have participated in Limmud activities in the past three decades.