“Thirty years ago Limmud first opened its doors to a small band of people who really didn’t know what to expect. To be frank nor did we, the four of us who had decided to make it happen. The idea was clear. Get a bunch of interesting and interested people into a space and give them a chance to teach each other what they knew. Always provide choice so that no-one could tell anyone else what they should learn and be really open as to what was a legitimate topic for a session. So long as it was somehow Jewish, it was in.” Clive Lawton, co-founder Limmud

Today, Limmud has expanded around the globe with the past few months witnessing a number of events in addition to Limmud Fest in the U.K., Limmud in Modiin (Israel) and Limmud FSU in Jerusalem and New York that we’ve previously written about. Here’s a snapshot:

Limmud Oz Melbourne

They came, they talked, they listened, they learned, they enquired and they said it was the best Limmud Oz that Melbourne had ever seen, exciting and informative, brilliant choice of speakers, a fabulous weekend of Jewish learning.

Over the Queen‘s Birthday weekend, 12-14 June 2010, some 800 people gathered at Monash University to make this event happen. More than 150 presenters formed the core of the festival of learning, with subjects covering art and literature, history and religious learning, the environmental, the existential and the political. The overseas guests, of outstanding calibre, provided engaging and dynamic presentations on Jewish subjects ranging from Jewish symbolism in art to the hard-nosed politics of monitoring terrorism.

Limmud Oz provides the opportunity for people to be involved at all levels; whether to present or to participate, the principle of Limmud is one of inclusion and this festival was particularly successful at providing platforms for the Jewish community‘s diverse audiences.

The venue suited Limmud Oz‘s format perfectly encouraging participant engagement. The classrooms, the lecture theatres, the café spaces and the nooks for musical performance enhanced the whole experience. Twelve sessions every hour, almost 200 in all, left everyone buzzing, some reeling. The energy created was unique; even the international guests complimented the organisers on the special quality of this Limmud. The festival ended with participants exhausted by the options and opportunities to engage with important subjects. The momentum it has given for continued learning and engagement will carry forward to the next festival.

Paris Day Limmud – Limoud France

On the 4th of July, for the first time in Limoud France, we organised a one day Limmud in Paris. More than 200  participants attended the 40 sessions. We had the chance to have not only participants from Paris and its surroundings, but also some coming from Copenhagen, Vienna, Brussels and Israel. From Limmud UK, friendships are created and we tend then to go to other Limmuds to have more chance to see our friends, and to discover the Jewish community in which they live in by the same occasion!

To organise a One Day Limmud was nice for the French Parisian Jewish community. The cheaper price allowed more families and students to come and discover the concept, and the short time allowed busy young professionals to come and taste Limoud in a shorter version.

Sessions on the organisation and impact of the extreme-right in France, on how to deal with Jewish parents, calligraphy, paper cuts, Bible and archaeology in Israel, session on Darfour, Soudan and democracy, Israeli wine tasting, speed-havrouta, sessions on Jewish communities around the world and Jewish peoplehood … The ones who already knew Limoud were delighted to share this day together, and the first comers are new addicts of Limmud …

Limmud Buenos Aires Argentina

On Sunday August 22 the Third Latin American Spanish Speaking Limmud took place in Buenos Aires at the Maimonides University from 9:00 am through 8:30 pm in an enthusiastic and joyful environment.

Limmud Buenos Aires is a one-day study and experience where the participants are able to express and live their Judaism the way they want, while attending different sessions.

There was a wide offer of sessions: from 10-20 simultaneous sessions covering the various specialties: philosophy, religion, history, arts, cooking, movies, theatre, etc.

This year we had the possibility to chose from 49 sessions among which there were topics related to Medieval Jewish philosophy, the question on Orthodox Judaism and who has the right to define Jewish identity, the homosexuality within the community and the Jewish institutions, the study of contemporary Israeli literature, humour that allows us to laugh from ourselves, music, dance, theatre, plastic arts, cooking traditional dishes with grandmothers and grandchildren, Tora, Gospel and Qoran in the view of three women who build bridges among the traditions and the myths and realities of family violence, among others.

In 2008, in Buenos Aires we presented the first Limmud in Latin America and in Spanish and now in 2010 we finished the third Limmud with more than 400 participants. This year there were many foreigners who approached voluntarily to participate. There were also specific proposals for children and a musical closing.

We believe that the objective of Limmud: that the participants have to make their own trip through the program and that they have to participate in those sessions that are of their interest, curiosity or just learn what they want to was mostly accomplished.

Limmud SA Cape Town

Yet another immensely successful Limmud SA Cape Town conference is behind us, and a whirlwind weekend of stimulating and enthralling sessions is sadly over.

This year‘s Limmud, which offered a mind-boggling choice of 100 presenters and 170 sessions, was widely acclaimed to be the best ever. Situated at the Stellenbosch Protea Hotel, overlooking the splendid rolling hills of the winelands, the venue could not have been more suited to our needs.

From the religious to secular, we gathered for Shabbat in stimulating spaces for prayer. The logistical organization, the inclusivity and conviviality of this memorable event bore a striking resemblance to the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Sitting on the lawn during the Friday night Shabbat service, with a beautiful view of the Helderberg mountains, under a star studded sky was tantamount to a unique spiritual experience, said Marlene Silbert.

There were excellent presentations on Jews in theatre, Torah-texts, self-improvement, history, archaeology, gay rights, Arab rights, Jewish rights, music, art, Israel, religion, films, politics, family, sexual relations, economics, meditation, mediation, education, literature, comedy, persecution, charity and the list goes on and on!

Babies, toddlers and preschoolers immersed themselves in a magical weekend that included Jewish programming and fun filled activities, singing and dance from early till late.

What an immense privilege it was for us to be exposed to a plethora of brilliant minds offering fresh thoughts, insights and ideas on such a wide variety of topics. This is yet another triumph for the organizers of this extraordinary annual event, with 470 weekend delegates, up by 100 each year since its inception, and 70 Sunday delegates attending for the first time. At times it seems as if our minds were bursting with information, pulsing with ideas, concerns and questions, and yet desperate to take in more. Limmud SA remains an essential source of thought, engagement and action for the Jewish community.

Limmud volunteers around the world contributed to this article.