The Jewish Journey Called Limmud

January 28, 2013

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


I was one of the four that started Limmud in 1980 in Britain. British Jewry in that time was neither a dynamic, educated nor exciting community. It was nearly impossible to find learning for adults and the community was deeply divided between the different denominations, between different age groups and even geographically. The vast majority of Jews in Britain did not know and did not want to know that there were Jews anywhere else – or if they knew it they were pretty sure they couldn’t learn anything from them.


So Limmud was born. From the beginning it was committed to treating adults like adults, allowing them to make their own choices as to what they learnt, facilitating encounters between Jews across whatever divides existing. We sought to demonstrate different ways of learning and to get adults to take seriously their responsibility to educate themselves.


Thirty three years later Limmud is a global phenomenon. There are Limmud groups from the Far East to the far west. (Forgive me for continuing to see Britain as the centre of the world!) There are Limmud groups in Sweden and Winnipeg in the north and in Buenos Aires, Durban, and New Zealand in the south. Thousands of Jews are annually fired up to make Limmud events happen, and tens of thousands of Jews participate in Limmud events each year round the world….


So what have I learned? Where has Limmud taken me on my Jewish journey? First of all, without doubt, I have learnt far greater respect for diverse Jewish views than my previous narrow Jewish world allowed. I’m not sure that I have much changed my own position and in some ways the learning that I’ve done may have intensified the convictions I brought with me to that first Limmud in 1980. But I have definitely also learnt a lot.


I was not unfamiliar with text study before but I have come across so many more texts and so many more ideas than otherwise would have been possible.


I have witnessed debates on the hot issues of the day which have really made me rethink my positions, not least and especially on issues of gay rights and how the community must – and doesn’t yet – accommodate gay and lesbian people in a decent manner of which we could be proud.


I have been gratified to discover that I’m not alone in some of the things that I thought I was. The big labels that we use to divide one Jew from another have been shown to me to be insufficient time and again, allowing me to realise that, whatever general label someone may carry or have had placed upon them, there is room for common ground and rich debate and even clarifying dispute in the most unexpected places.


As someone who comes out of the Orthodox community Limmud has been a source of huge relief and gratification to discover that Orthodoxy is a richer and more diverse grouping than my own national community seems to want to suggest. I have met some fabulous Orthodox rabbis. But I have also met some fabulous non-Orthodox rabbis, sincerely, intelligently and inspiringly grappling with the implications and consequences of their own positions….


Limmud must try to accommodate everyone and it must constantly be scanning for who is missing. It must design itself not only for those who do come but also for those who might yet come. In short, it must embrace and welcome everyone who wants to take one step further on their Jewish journey.


Read the entire post at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: May. 16, 2013