The Power of An Idea; The Power of Limmud New York

Limmud New York, the first child of Limmud International, recently concluded their 6th annual conference.

Launched in 2005 by six volunteers, and assistance from UJA Federation of New York, The Picower Foundation and Bikkurim, last weekend’s conference featured over 300 sessions for the 700 participants along with heat! With attendees from three weeks to 97 years old, there was programming for all. 100 kids and teenagers participated in a winter camp and a vibrant group of college students helped keep the tempo high.

Here’s a sampling of what’s being said:

Tamar Fox writing in

Limmud NY 2010: The Quintessential Limmud Experience

The thing I always love about Limmud is the sheer number of times every day that my world is completely rocked by brilliance. In any normal weekend (or week, for that matter) how many times do you hear or see something that leaves you awe-inspired? I don’t mean in a particularly religious way, I just mean, in the way where you learn something that is so smart that you’re left gobsmacked. In my regular life, I’d say that happens, at most, twice a month. At Limmud, it happens at least once a day, and if you choose your sessions well, it can happen five or six times a day.

Gary Rosenblatt writing in The New York Jewish Week:

Money is Vital, But The Power of Ideas Sustains Us

Not surprisingly, as the economic downturn drags on, there is much communal discussion about the need for more and more funding to keep our most precious institutions and programs intact, from the federation system to Birthright Israel to day schools.

But then there is the phenomenon of Limmud.

A grassroots effort to offer a positive encounter with Jewish learning in its broadest definition to Jews of all backgrounds, interests and levels of expertise, Limmud (Hebrew for “learning”) is a program that began in England 29 years ago during Christmas week, and is now a movement that has spread to 19 countries, including the U.S., Israel, Argentina, Turkey, Poland and Russia.

… An antidote to our thinking that money is the answer to all problems in Jewish life, Limmud NY is a shining example of the power of an idea, underscoring how much can be accomplished through the passionate commitment of even a small group of people.

Limmud NY, the first of six Limmud programs in America, is powered by volunteers. About 100 of them, mostly in their 20s and 30s, spent 11 months planning every aspect of the annual four-day conference. There is only one paid employee. The speakers and presenters provide their services for free, sometimes receiving a subsidy for travel or lodging.

What’s more, Limmud is multi-generational, post-denominational, diverse and inclusive, welcoming and attracting all types of Jews and making them feel comfortable – no easy feat. Just about everyone I spoke with during my visit made mention of how refreshing it was to be with such a wide assortment of Jews under one roof, and lamented that the feeling doesn’t seem to be transferable “back in the real world,” as one woman told me.

… At a time when many of us worry about the Jewish future, not just demographically but in terms of quality and commitment, last weekend’s conference was a refreshing reminder that we are still bound together as The People of the Book, and that for many, there remains a thirst for authentic Jewish experiences that deepen our understanding and our sense of community.

Limmud does both. More power to it.