525 Jews of all backgrounds, affiliations, education and practice gathered at the first-ever Limmud Seattle for a weekend festival of learning, discovery and entertainment, on January 13-14, 2018, at the Shoreline Conference Center in Shoreline, Washington.
“We were thrilled as one after another participant from across Seattle’s Jewish spectrum told us how they felt enriched and excited to be here,” said Limmud Seattle Founding Co-Chair Robert Hovden. “That was the very atmosphere we had dreamed to create when we started planning this gathering 18 months ago. Given the mix of topics and speakers, we know this will become an annual event.”
Planned and run by close to 200 volunteers, Limmud Seattle offered sessions on Jewish attitudes toward tobacco, alcohol and cannabis; cartooning a split Jewish identity; Israel’s Jewish renaissance; Sephardic Jewish history; and, uppity women in the Bible, to say nothing of Torah and philosophy, social justice, ethics and activism, mindfulness, arts and “The Gefilte Manifesto.”
“This weekend was over the moon,” said Judith Benjamin. “Making over 500 people so happy is quite an achievement.”
Presenters included Jorge Baron, Executive Director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project; Dr. Ruth Calderon, a ground-breaking leader in the secular study of sacred texts who is spearheading efforts in Israel to revive Hebrew culture and a pluralistic Israeli-Jewish identity; Isaac Azose, educator, cantor and author of several books including the Sephardic Daily/Sabbath prayer book created for the Seattle Sephardic community; and, Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz, food revolutionaries who co-founded New York’s Gefilteria.
“The quality and range of presentations was not only impressive, it did an excellent job of showcasing the most important parts of what Jewish culture in Seattle actually is and aspires toward across the board,” said Mai Li Pittard. “I feel like I can finally understand for the first time what it actually means to be Jewish in Seattle, rather than just Jewish for myself.”
Falling on Martin Luther King weekend, the festival concluded with a sing-in celebration of freedom, justice and unity, which included songs written specifically for Limmud Seattle. Massachusetts based Anthony Russell, joined Josh Horowitz, Chava Mirel, klezmer jam players, and Carl Sayres, a composer of new Jewish liturgical music, to bring the house down,
“Our goal was to create a space for Jews of all backgrounds to gather and feel welcome in an environment of respect and celebration,” said Limmud Seattle Founding Co-Chair Deb Arnold. “Limmud is unique in its ability to bring a community together. Feeling the excitement and energy of learning and connection today was thrilling, especially for everyone who worked so hard to bring this festival to life.”
Limmud was founded in the United Kingdom in 1980. Limmud Seattle is the world’s newest Limmud, joining more than 80 communities in over 40 countries, spanning Caracas, Venezuela, to Helsinki, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Poland and New Zealand, as well as across the Former Soviet Union.