Harrow learns to love Limmud

March 31, 2011
In a class of their own: a children’s programme attracted 70 youngsters

In a class of their own: a children’s programme attracted 70 youngsters

The newly appointed chief executive of the Movement for Reform Judaism has said the Jewish community should learn lessons from the gay pride movement.

Ben Rich, who is also a communications consultant, spoke to a crowd at the first Harrow Day Limmud at Heathfield School in Pinner on Sunday.

Speaking about Jews and the media, Mr Rich said: "The responsibility to change stereotypes in the media lies with us. We need to be more courageous. We need to be less worried about washing our dirty laundry in public. There are passionate debates within our communities about the rights and wrongs of the Israeli government. To pretend they are not happening to the outside world is dishonest and self-defeating.

"We take ourselves too seriously. We could learn from the gay pride movement focusing on positive messages, not apologising for who they are."

More than 500 people attended 100 sessions, including talks from survivor Agnes Grunwald-Spier on her family's experience in the Holocaust, JLC chief executive Jeremy Newmark, on boycotts and responding to contemporary antisemitism, and Borehamwood and Elstree rabbi, Naftali Brawer on whether angels and demons exist.

It also included sessions on interfaith issues from Faith Matters director, Fiyaz Mughal, on righteous Muslims during the Holocaust, and the Israeli Arab campaigner and co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, Mohammad Darawshe, who spoke about the Arab citizens of Israel.

Executive editor of The Times and Harrow resident, Daniel Finkelstein, attracted over 100 people for his lecture, winning the argument for Israel.

There were also cookery demonstrations, film screenings and klezmer dancing and around 70 children took part in their own programme.

Ros Preston, chair of the Jewish Human Rights Coalition, held a talk entitled "Do women matter to the Jewish community?" She said: "The community says we need more women involved but we still have barriers in place to women doing that. Many of these are self-imposed."

Seventeen-year-old participant Sophie Lipton from Pinner said: "I'm here with my family and didn't know much about Limmud before. It's like an all-age summer camp. It's nice to see the local community and I'm really interested in the talks about Israel."

Hatch End based Edwin Lucas said: "This is the first time I've been to Limmud and wanted to go because it was local. I thought it would be too religious but I found it interesting and varied."

Debbie Danon, a 26-year-old education manager at the Three Faiths Forum, said: "I'm a long-term fan of Limmud. It's positive to have people from different backgrounds and it's been really encouraging. It's a chance for other communities to see what we do."

Co-organiser Doreen Samuels said: "It speaks volumes for the people of Harrow and surrounding areas that so many wanted to join in the excitement of Limmud. One of the most uplifting features was the spirit of intra-faith co-operation which, in our fractured community, is often only a dream."

Last updated: 3:17pm, April 5 2011