Show a Welcoming Face to the European Visitors to Limmud Conference

Courtesy National Library of Israel
Courtesy National Library of Israel

By Daniela Greiber

In 1949, the Israeli Institute for Public Opinion Research published a report on tourists’ experiences when visiting the newly founded Jewish state. The National Library of Israel has a wonderful array of documents and images showing the local attractions and services that were a focus for the tourists. An instructive (and amusing) video campaign (Show a welcoming face to the visitor) was developed to encourage Israelis to be good hosts to the visitors.

This month, over 80 eager participants from European Jewish communities will be attending Limmud Conference – what will they report on their return? Who are these people? Why are they coming?

For a number of years the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe (RFHE) and Limmud International have been working together to create training and learning opportunities for members of the European Jewish communities. The Limmud Development and Connection Programme during conference inspires European volunteers to connect with their UK, regional and international peers. During targeted training sessions and informal networking, they share common challenges and successes and identify opportunities for collaboration. This year, around 30 Limmud volunteers from Europe are expected to attend conference.

Matara 2014 participants; courtesy.
Matara 2014 participants; courtesy.

In the last five years, through its Matara programme, RFHE has brought close to 100 Jewish youth and student leaders employed or active in centres of Jewish life across Europe to Limmud conference. This self-contained programme gave the participants an opportunity to experience high quality Jewish learning, gain insights into the best of informal educational practice and theory and learn about the realities of other European communities. Many graduates of the programme remain involved in their local communities, some moved to Israel and there is at least one couple who met at Matara and subsequently got married!

This year, through Yesod (A partnership of RFHE, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and JDC Europe), we are sponsoring seventeen Matara graduates to return to conference and in addition, we are enabling sixteen other communal Jewish professionals to attend Limmud Conference, some of them coming for the first time. Countries represented include: Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czeck Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Sweden.

We are excited to welcome back Borcsa Lakos (Matara 2012) from Hungary who has developed the Talmud not only for women project that since 2014 December has run over 15 events, reaching 500 people. As Borcsa says: “Returning to Limmud conference will allow me to find new, relevant and interesting topics for each month next year, possibly involving international lecturers. I will also look for further cooperation and partnerships to continue text study sessions in Hungarian and later on in English, in Budapest.”

We will also welcome first time Limmud conference participant Faustine Sigal from Paris, a founder member of the egalitarian La Schul minyan and Pardes graduate. Faustine is looking forward to coming to conference, “Ever since I heard from Limmud, I thought it was an incredibly smart and exciting contribution to the democratization of Jewish learning. From what I sense from my friends and teachers who participated, Limmud UK specifically, is a hub for deep, creative, diverse Jewish thought and practice. From those echoes, it looks like a journey all the participants engage in for a few days with a buzzing enthusiasm! I think Limmud UK could help me build (or identify) the bridges between this sort of optimistic, open Judaism that burgeons in America and Israel and European Judaisms, in their diversity.”

Altogether, through the different programmes mentioned above, the largest group of Europeans will be participating in Conference. Please look out for them and make them feel welcome!

You should also look for the European Jewish life track in the Conference schedule. This year RF(H)E has teamed up with Limmud to bring to conference eight contemporary Jewish voices from Europe. Look out for speakers such as Clelia Piperno from Italy who will present her work on the Babylonian Talmud Italian Translation Project, Maria Kavala who will talk about Jewish life in Greece today and Shimon Parizhky from Russia who will teach how to “slow read” a Jewish text.

By bringing these European participants to Limmud, we hope that Conference participants will gain a broader and deeper understanding of European Jewish Life, while also creating an opportunity for European Jewish activists and experts to connect with a large Jewish audience they would not otherwise access. We also hope that this will allow them to benefit from professional and communal networking with the potential for future collaboration on European Jewish learning projects.

At Limmud you will have the opportunity to meet incredibly creative and enthusiastic people who are the fabric of Jewish life in Europe today, defying the claim that there is no one to keep the flame going. Make them feel welcome! Look for them in the corridors and ask them about their Jewish communities and their lives, attend their sessions and be ready to be amazed.

Daniela Greiber is Grants Programmes Manager at the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe.