London, UK – January 8, 2015 – For the first time since its founding, the Limmud International Steering Group has a chairperson from outside the United Kingdom. David Bilchitz, who co-founded Limmud South Africa, is a professor of human rights and constitutional law at the University of Johannesburg and director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC).
Mr. Bilchitz assumed his new role as chairperson of the Limmud International Steering Group in January 2015. The Steering Group supports Limmud groups around the globe with training, development and networking. Today, there are Limmud events in 80 Jewish communities and 41 countries.
Founded in the UK in 1980 by a small group of volunteers, Limmud boasts more than 3,000 volunteers the world over. Where it began with 75 Jewish educators, their friends and families, 28,500 people took part in a Limmud event in 2014.
Bilchitz took over from outgoing Limmud International Chair David Hoffman, who oversaw Limmud International growth in Asia, Israel and Latin America, among other places.
“Limmud represents a celebration of Jewish culture and identity,” said Bilchitz, who continues to help lead LimmudSA and co-chaired its first three conferences. “I love the multiplicity of forms of Jewishness represented – from Torah and Talmud, to music, arts, film and so much else. I also love the way in which people with widely diverging views and commitments find a way to engage one another respectfully, even becoming friends.
“Limmud offers an answer for how to create a positive, engaged Jewish identity in the modern world. And, the vitality and dynamism within the Limmud international community is infectious and energising.”
Mr. Bilchitz has a long record as a Jewish activist and leader. At university, he was on the national committee of the SA Union of Jewish Students and on the Jewish society in Cambridge. He has functioned as a para-rabbi in the progressive Jewish community and currently sits on the Beit Emanuel Synagogue executive, where he heads the Jewish Identity committee and is currently revising the religion school curriculum for bnei mitzvah. He is also a founding member of Jewish OutLook, the South African organisation that addresses the needs of LGBTI Jews.
He laid out his goals for the Limmud International Steering Group at Limmud Conference, the annual flagship global Jewish learning festival, where over 2,500 people from 27 countries gathered on a university campus from 28 December through New Year’s 2015, in Coventry, UK.
“First, I would like to ensure that we continue to provide excellent support to existing groups and to maintain the current strength of Limmud in communities across the world,” Bilchitz told the Limmud International activists. “The second goal is to deepen our connections with local groups through a mentoring programme, with Limmud International volunteer liaisons to local groups. Finally, I would like to innovate – whether helping to kick-start new groups or exploring new forms of learning and sharing through the Limmud model.”