By the end of the first day of Limmud, it felt like a simchah without a function. I’d run into a cousin, cousins of my wife and some old acquaintances I had not seen for 20 years or so.
The compactness of the new hotel venue – where all sessions are being held in a single building – makes it more likely to bump into people you know. That, of course, may not make it an attraction for everyone. In the past, you could spend five days at conference on a more spread-eye campus and not set eyes on people you knew would be there.
For those less mobile, the move to a new location has been a boon. I know of one nonagenarian with a walker who decided to attend this year because it would be easier to get around.
Most of the people so far seem positive about the change of venue. A few have suggested that university lecture halls are better for more academic sessions, preferring a back-to-college atmosphere. And no longer do you experience a burst of bracing and sometimes revivifying fresh air as you move between sessions. But most are not saying no to more comfortable rooms and better amenities. The most looked-at item on the Limmud App has apparently been “pool”.
Compared to some past conferences, this is Limmud deluxe. But does greater comfort mean that the organisation will lose some of its edge? One of its successes has been to broaden its appeal to the mainstream while still being able to include some elements of the Jewish “fringe”.
On the programme you will still find examples of spiritual experimentation here and there. And Limmud remains a place to ask new questions. A number of sessions reflect growing awareness of transgender issues and the implications of that for understanding sexual identity.
As an example of that, someone told me they were mentioning to someone else about taking part in all-female panel discussion. “How do you know it is all-female?” was the reply…