What I Learned at LimmudFest

The Jewish future is important - but so is the Jewish present

Earlier this fall, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the tenth annual LimmudFest at Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, GA. Limmud is an organization that was started in the UK in the 1980s that brings together a wide array of Jews to engage in meaningful learning opportunities, community building, and volunteerism. There are now over 80 Limmud sites around the world.

While some Limmud presenters are Jewish professionals, many are not. One of the fantastic structural components of Limmud is that every attendee must volunteer in some capacity. Attendees can help register people, serve meals, provide music, assist with childcare, take pictures, and a host of other tasks that make a meaningful Jewish experience happen.

While there, I presented two of the Jewish social justice modules from the Act, Share, Keep/ASK program developed by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL): Jewish Resilience and Praying with Your Feet. I also had the honor of sitting on a panel in which we discussed the future of Jewish communities. We discussed the “regular” topics: legacy, sustainability, youth engagement, member participation, rituals, and traditions. The other panelists, the audience, and I had a robust conversation that stuck with me throughout the remainder of the weekend.

After 10 hours of driving and several recaps with colleagues and friends, I started to appreciate something: we spend so much time thinking about how we will survive in the future that it is easy to overlook what we are doing now. 

LimmudFest had every component of a robust Jewish community that has been set up to flourish for many years to come. We celebrated Shabbat and an attendee’s wedding anniversary. We ate, prayed, and learned together. We welcomed, celebrated, and accommodated families. Participants in their 20s and 30s are on the board and intricately involved in the planning and delivery. There were opportunities for creation, meditation, and celebration. We acknowledged and integrated traditions and lifestyles. All forms of the arts enveloped us. We discussed money and tzedakah. There was time for peace, joy, laughter, connections, and reflection. All people present were seen as important individually, and together as a collective.

All weekend long I heard people talk about how this is one of their favorite and most important events of the year (secular or religious) and compare how many years they have participated. I left Limmud with new friends, felt connected to a broader community, and was excited about where we, as a people, are headed in the future. Creating this type of community at a retreat is different than everyday life. To sustain our communities, we need to think creatively about how we lean into today’s contexts and technologies. Just because Jewish communities are in a state of evolution does not mean this is a bad thing. Jews have been adapting for millennia, and it is a necessity if we are going to be here in the future.

Change can be scary. But so many aspects of how we stay strong and connected are here now. Limmud highlighted for me that we have Jewish people all around us looking for ways to share traditions, bonds, and a love for Jewish culture and life and that I share responsibility in and shaping what the future can look like – and also reminded me to appreciate some of the wonderful things the Jewish community is doing, right now.

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