Limmud Impact Study Underscores the Power of Volunteerism for Catalyzing Jewish Initiatives

Limmud Festival Birmingham UK, December 2017

The Limmud Impact Study 2018, which surveyed Limmud volunteers in 10 communities around the globe, shows that Limmud’s impact reverberates throughout the Jewish world. Volunteers reported that Limmud advanced their Jewish knowledge, inspired greater Jewish communal involvement, and catalyzed new Jewish initiatives.

“Sparked by Limmud, our volunteers have taken on leadership and educational roles within their Jewish communities,” said Limmud Chief Executive Eli Ovits. “Many have launched creative Jewish initiatives that engage countless others, from the Lehrer Haus in Copenhagen and Malmo, developed by Limmud Oresund volunteers, to the Cape Town Jewish Literary Festival and the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival.”

The independent study was conducted by Dr. Keith Kahn-Harris, a British sociologist. Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz, of Research Technologies Success in Israel, acted as advisor. It draws on three data sources: an online survey to 10 communities in English, Spanish, German, Bulgarian, Hebrew and Hungarian, conducted in February and March 2018, which garnered 504 responses; two focus groups at Limmud Festival in the UK, in December 2017; and, informal discussions and observations at Limmud Connect Global Volunteer Forum in Israel, in May 2018.

Limmud has the greatest impact on less involved Jews, including particularly young people (under 40). “The Limmud Impact Study revealed that for those who start volunteering with Limmud with less Jewish interest and commitment, Limmud will have a bigger impact,” said study author Dr. Keith Kahn-Harris.

But, Kahn-Harris argued, Limmud’s inclusive and diverse approach is best. “The study also suggests that focusing solely on young people is not a good strategy. Limmud volunteer communities may be most sustainable and effective when they are multi-generational.”

David Hoffman, Chair of Limmud, noted, “The study also confirmed that Limmud impacts equally on Jews regardless of denominational identity, religious practice, or gender. Limmud has the greatest impact within a diverse community.” He further suggested, “Every Jew is welcome in Limmud, and perhaps the importance of the volunteer experience to our model explains the high levels of impact reported.”

Highlights include:

  • Limmud impacts positively on connections with diverse Jews: Limmud enables its volunteers to make new friends (84%), to meet Jews who are different from themselves (82%), and deepens a sense of connection to the Jewish people (68%):
  • Limmud advances Jewish learning and curiosity: 89% of respondents agreed that Limmud increased their Jewish knowledge; 68% agreed it exposed them to a wider variety of Jewish traditions, 65% said it led them to a greater engagement with Jewish learning, 62% agreed it made them more curious about Jewish life and Judaism;
  • Limmud empowers individuals for leadership: 55% agreed that involvement with Limmud helped them develop leadership skills and an equal percentage said enhanced their confidence.
  • Limmud volunteers impact the wider Jewish community: 53% agreed or strongly agreed that Limmud had changed their Jewish community and more than a third reported that Limmud had led them to become more involved in their communities.
  • Limmud has the greatest impact on younger Jews: 73% of volunteers under 40 agreed that their Jewish lives were strongly impacted by their experience at Limmud.
  • Limmud catalyzes Jewish social entrepreneurship: A full 20% reported that involvement in Limmud led them to set up (alone or with others) a new Jewish initiative or organization. These include launching educational initiatives, cultural events, and new religious community communities. Limmud has even inspired similar initiatives outside the Jewish community, such as the Muslim New Horizons project in the UK, which was founded by a Muslim leader who had visited Limmud, and Lsaran, an event for the Armenian Diaspora whose founder was inspired by Limmud FSU.

The Impact Study was generously supported by by The Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation and UJA-Federation of New York.