Limmud conference planned for Beijing Jewish community

By Jemimah Steinfeld, February 8, 2012
Participants let off steam at a Limmud event

Participants let off steam at a Limmud event

Limmud is set to land in the Chinese capital this year - and an organiser claims it could turn out to be a historic moment for Jewish life in the country.

The festival of arts and discussion is due to take place in Beijing in December, with a small-scale "taster" event timetabled for June 3.

Organiser Simon Caplan, a senior programme officer at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), said: "I first came to Beijing over a year ago and saw several Jewish populations that I felt were under-served.

"The Limmud formula is important and it will hit a chord here, being diverse, positive and sophisticated. This could be a tipping point in Jewish life here."

Credited with founding the first one-day Limmud at Carmel College in the UK 30 years ago, Mr Caplan wants to bring a sense of connectedness to Asian Jewish communities, and believes mainland China should be the focus.

US national Jonathan Dworkin, another organiser, has been living in Beijing for six years. A resident of Beijing's Moishe House and active member of Kehillat, the local liberal Jewish community, Mr Dworkin attended the main UK Limmud event in December. He said: "My experience at Limmud in the UK was outstanding and I'd definitely love to go back. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before."

So why Beijing? "We've reached a critical mass of Jews who are interested in getting involved with Jewish events and building a sense of community," he said.

The kosher population of Beijing - and China - is booming. The country's economic transformation and receptiveness to foreign workers has sparked an influx of Westerners, many of whom are Jewish.

The discussions tabled for the Beijing Limmud include China-Israel relations, keeping kosher in a country where pork is everywhere and Chinese stereotypes of Jews.

Last updated: 12:46pm, February 8 2012