Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Reorienting Jewish Experience: The Limmud Phenomenon

A new blog entry from Rabbi Dov Gartenberg: Rabbiblog

A Reorienting Jewish Experience: The Limmud Phenomenon

(Click on the links to go get more information)

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a groundbreaking event for LA Jews. It is called LimmudLA. It was one of the best Jewish experiences I have had in many years. What is it and why is it special?

Limmud in Hebrew means to learn or study. Limmud was started in Great Britain 25 years ago. Limmud UK has become an annual gathering of 2500 Jews from all around the world and is considered one of the most exciting events in modern Jewish life. The concept has begun to spread to new countries and cities. LimmudNY is now an established gathering. LimmudLA will be followed by LimmudColorado in May.

Limmud as described by the organizers in Great Britain aims to enable each participant to go one step further on their own Jewish journey by offering access to some of the world's most dynamic Jewish educators, performers and teachers. At Limmud you are exposed to all educational styles including lectures, workshops, text-study sessions,  film, meditation, discussions, exhibits and performances to ensure that there is always 'something for everyone'. Indeed, the content of a typical Limmud event is as diverse as its participants. The concept of Limmud is to honor the diversity of modern Judaism by creating a gathering space for Jews of all stripes and ages to come together, learn with outstanding teachers, enjoy creative artists, and engage each other in countless ways. The organizers of Limmud resist other institutions or religious movements from being sponsors and thus keep the gathering free from ideological or religious agendas. It is one of the truly pluralistic events in modern Jewish life which is the source of its inspiration and uniqueness.

LimmudLA, as reported in the cover story of the LA Jewish Journal, was a huge effort. "More than 100 volunteers and one paid professional worked insanely long hours over the past two years to bring together more than 600 Jews from every denomination, age group and area of Southern California for 262 study sessions, 21 films, two concerts, a comedy show, an off-Broadway play and countless hours of connecting."

From Friday noon until Monday noon there was a buzz of excitement. Every hour gave you 10 choices of learning and arts. Over Shabbat there were multiple options for davening to accommodate the diversity. The meals were set up to maximize meeting. At every meal you met another 4 or 5 people. The beautiful thing about Limmud was the diversity of age groups with lots of college students mixed in with older adults.

Our Jewish lives are fragmented much of the time. Jewish life's strength and weakness is that our Jewish lives are local, centered around a shul or a JCC. Many Jews do not even have that, cut off from any Jewish communal experience beyond their families or friends. This leaves us to live in our little Jewish worlds often sucked dry of rich, authentic, and inspiring Jewish experiences. But we benefit greatly from being exposed to a wider Jewish world and to different approaches, forms of expression, and alternative perspectives of Jewish life. Each of us can benefit from the powerful renewal of a powerful multifaceted Jewish experience like Limmud. I hope you can find a way to a Limmud experience, either here in LA or in the many communities that are discovering the power of these unique Jewish gatherings.

Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

February 26, 2008

20 Adar I 5768