Reflecting on the Launch of the Limmud North America Community of Educators

by David Wolkin

An interesting experiment in professional development for Jewish educators will take place in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend. Within the context of Limmud Atlanta + Southeast’s annual LimmudFest at Ramah Darom, we’ll be bringing together a cohort of Jewish educators from across the institutional and denominational spectrum for the launch of the Limmud North America Community of Educators. Over the weekend, this group will spend time engaging in learning with master educators, networking with each other and the conference at large, and pairing their experience with the “volunticipation” and Torah Lishmah that lives at every Limmud event.

I’m delighted to say that this group won’t be the last of its kind. With the support of the Covenant Foundation, similar cohorts will be forming at the Limmuds in New York, Los Angeles and Colorado over the year to come. Throughout this process, we’ll be harnessing the power of online learning to bring these cohorts together and forge a larger community of practice.

This initiative represents an important new direction when it comes to Limmud in North America. It could not have come together without the cooperation and communication of each partnering Limmud or the support of Limmud International. And no matter where a Limmud takes place, there are certain aspects embedded in the nature of these gatherings that enable us to be uniquely suited to provide a different kind of professional learning experience for educators:

The Power of Networks: Limmud events bring together Jews from across the spectrum, enabling participants to form uncommon connections with people that they may not encounter in their regular communities. While we will be investing in building connections between the educators in the cohort itself, it’s important to us that their experience will take place in a setting that will allow them not only to form connections with colleagues, but with members of the broader Jewish community. This segues to …

A Different Kind of Learning Community: In most cases, committing to a professional development retreat means that the educator must take precious time away from home and family in order to participate. Our participants don’t need to make that choice because Limmud is for the whole family! Participants in the Community of Educators will be able to engage in professional and personal Jewish learning, with friends, family, and colleagues, all within the same space.

Diversity: In my previous positions as a Jewish educator, I found that many professional development experiences were generally targeted towards a specific type of role. When I worked in synagogue schools, I often found myself surrounded by those who did the same. As much as I enjoyed and grew from those powerful experiences, I found myself wondering what it would be like to engage in ongoing professional learning with many kinds of educators. With the Community of Educators, we’re taking Limmud’s international value of cross-communalism and attempting to apply it to the field of Jewish education. Next week, educators who work in synagogue schools, day schools, summer camps, and innovative complementary school programs like Jewish Kids Groups will all be a part of this cohort, learning together at LimmudFest and serving as resources to one another through the next year and beyond.

It’s also essential to recognize what the Community of Educators program means for Limmud in North America. It wasn’t so long ago that Limmud did not exist on this side of the pond. Today there are more than a dozen Limmud groups operating across North America under the banner of Limmud International. This initiative represents the first time that multiple Limmuds will be engaging in a sustained and strategic effort at collaboration. Just as much as we are about bringing educators together, we are also about bringing Limmuds together. We‘re laying the groundwork for ongoing Limmud collaboration across the country, and this will only serve to strengthen the long-term future of our burgeoning movement.

At its very essence, Limmud thrives at creating spaces for Jews across the spectrum. We create spaces for them to learn, to lead, to explore their identities, and to take the next step on their Jewish journeys. With the launch of the Limmud North America Community of Educators, we’re opening up new kind of learning space for Jewish educators across the country, and an exciting new path for Limmud.

David Wolkin is the Executive Director of Limmud NY.