Limmud Miami’s 430 participants included immigrants from Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil, with visitors from Israel and Turkey, as well; photo by Patricia Pecznik.

Limmud Miami’s 430 participants included immigrants from Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil, with visitors from Israel and Turkey; photo by Patricia Pecznik.

by Martin Joseph

The Limmud global juggernaut continued to expand in February and March with Vancouver and Miami joining the Limmud family of 86 communities on six continents.

LimmudVan ’14 drew 275 adults and children for the first annual Limmud Vancouver on February 9th. Such was the excitement that it sold out a month in advance.

A musical interlude at Limmud Vancouver; photo by Robert Albanese.

A musical interlude at Limmud Vancouver; photo by Robert Albanese.

As the Jewish Independent reported, Limmud was brought to Vancouver by Ruth Hess-Dolgin, z”l. After her passing, her husband Avi Dolgin and friend Betty Nitkin took up the gauntlet, corralling dozens of volunteers to produce the daylong festival of learning, boasting 42 sessions. Topics ranged from the ethics of organ and tissue donation, whether God has a gender, and what caused the death of Jesus, to Jewish chanting, the music of Uganda’s Jews, and Yiddish sing-alongs – to say nothing of the popup music ensembles throughout.

“Though there are about 20,000 Jews in Vancouver, we think of ourselves as a small, remote community,” said Avi Dolgin, LimmudVan Chair. “Limmud gave me a chance to show Vancouver that we have undiscovered teachers among ourselves. I was so happy to deliver learning and culture to a receptive community.”

And, Florida continues to bask in the Limmud Miami glow from March 23rd. Of the 430 participants, 150 were immigrants from Latin America – think Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil, while 40 came from overseas, including Israel and Turkey. The youngest Limmud Miami-nik was three months old; the most senior, 85.

Not only was it a first for Miami, Limmud Miami was the first-ever Limmud event for Co-chairs Romina Naparstek and Francine Safdeye, who recruited a 50-strong team of volunticipants to produce what participant Lois termed a “breath of fresh air for Jewish Miami,” in her feedback sheet. No surprise with sessions like, “Women are from Genesis, Men are from Leviticus,” and, the Miami-specific “Jewish and Cuban, Ashkenazi and Sephardi: How to Cherish All Our Identities.”

“Together with Romi, this was my first ever Limmud experience,” Co-Chair Francine Safdeye told eJewish Philanthropy. “I am overwhelmed at the positive response from the participants. We had a phenomenal day of Jewish learning and celebration and I am very excited to be a part of the worldwide Limmud experience.”

Naparstek is confident Limmud augurs well for Miami’s Jewish community. “We believe that Limmud Miami will change the way the Miami community learns and interacts,” she said. “Limmud is all about teams. We have shown the community that if there is a will it can happen. It is great to read so much happiness and positive reaction from the diverse group participants that we had.”

Limmud was founded in 1980 in the United Kingdom, when 75 people gathered to teach and learn together. In 2013, 25,000 people around the world took part in a Limmud event, with the promise that “wherever you find yourself, Limmud will take you one step further on your Jewish journey.” These two most recent Limmuds bring the total to 18 communities in North America.

The final word goes to Roz, of Limmud Miami, who captured the sentiments of so many when she wrote, “It was dessert for the soul.”