How was Limmud for you?

The JC asked participants about their experience of this year’s Jewish mega-festival


Rabbi Dr Rona Matlow

Rabbi Dr Rona Matlow, 64, from Vegas

“This was my first Limmud in the UK and the biggest Jewish studies conference I have ever been to. Yesterday, I went to a workshop on Bible translation, which is one of my favourite topics and another one of antisemitism, which was fascinating. I came by myself and met lots of fascinating people. I’ve given six workshops myself, all on exciting and different ways to read Biblical texts. They were called “R-rated Torah – Things we don’t talk about in shul”. As a non-binary trans person, it was amazing to have all-gender toilets and talks by Keshet UK. Limmud is clearly very progressive, and it’s been wonderful.”

Marloes Schoonheim, 47, from Amsterdam

“During Covid, I attended Limmud online and loved it. I arrived here before Shabbat. In the Netherlands, there are only 40,000 Jews, so to be among so many Jews, especially during Havdalah, was really powerful. I was so moved, that I couldn’t sing. I was really struck by the diversity of people here. In one workshop, there was a young lady in the audience with piercings and tattoos and in the next lecture, there was an Orthodox person. The diversity of topics from refurbishing laptops for refugees to giving tzedakah was wonderful.”

Erez Safar, from LA

“I have done Limmud in the past as a producer and a DJ. I have now released a book series, so I came here as an author this time and gave two talks. What I love about the LA Jewish community is that it’s really diverse, which is what Limmud is like. I was pleased to have arrived on Friday because Shabbat was a good opportunity to ease myself in and meet people. Havdalah was amazing with all the light and having everyone in the same space. Limmud for me was about connecting with people and collaborating in different ways.”

Vlad, 45, from the UK

“I went on Limmud before the pandemic, but after October 7, I felt that it was important for Jews to be in a common space and to embrace each other. Previously, I have come to Limmud for fun, but this year the main factor was to be with people. I attended some interesting sessions, including a creative writing one, which I realluy enjoyed.”

Eric Osterweil, 89, lives in London, born in Belgium and lived in the States until he was 24

“This was my third UK Limmud. I was very enthusiastic about the participation of young people. They are indispensable to our community. I enjoyed a number of sessions, including one on the Jews of Salonika and a session on a cappella singing of liturgical choral music. I used to be in a choir, but I found it quite hard to sing again. I enjoyed a session called For the Sake of Argument [where in one session, participants looked at how to argue about the situation in Israel and Gaza]. There is a realisation on Limmud that our world changed on October 7.”

Marie-Hélène Cohen, 59, from north-west London

“I went on my first Limmud 15 years ago. I love the sense of community, that you can really connect with people here, and also that it’s a very diverse group of people. In the sessions, people have got differences of opinion, but you learn to accept each other and talk to each other. It was really fantastic that the young volunteers, who are the future of our community, were looking after everyone here and looking out for each other. This is really all we can now do in the world we live in.”

Shira Miller, 15, from north-west London

“My parents met on Limmud, and we used to go when we were little. This Limmud is our first one in a few years. It was so nice being here. I loved the people. I loved the energy. I loved that you never knew what you were going to do that day and that you might end up with a random group of people in a room with a musician. I went to a session run by someone called Ariella about how to help families who have children with autism. The whole room was in complete awe of her.”

Betty Q, 37, from Poland

“This was my first time at Limmud UK. I’m organising Limmud Warsaw with a partner and Limmud UK was such an inspiration. Even though I only knew people for a few days, I made a lot of friends and now feel so much more connected to the European Jewish community. I gave three presentations. One was burlesque dancing, and I was so happy with how it went. I also gave a session on the Polish Jewish community and body positivity. I’m an atheist and at Limmud, I attended my first humanist service. This made a lot of sense to me as a Jew.”

Liza Cemel, 25, from Turkey, lives in Heidelberg in Germany

“This is my first ever Limmud and I presented on a panel on Jewish Europe from a young perspective and also took part in a session on the Kaleidoscope project, which is about telling your Jewish story. It was really interesting that there were so many people from different backgrounds and with different interests, who were committed and willing to contribute. Finding people with the same motivation to learn and to grow together was inspiring. It was so intense since there were so many sessions to choose from, but I didn’t put myself under pressure to do everything. I found it important to try different things while also enjoying things I was already interested in without overwhelming myself.

Janine Stein, 60, lives in London, originally from Cape Town

“I’m a latecomer to Limmud and only started coming five years ago in my 50s. This year, Israel was a hot topic. I was very affected by October 7, but it was shocking how easy it was for me to leave the trauma behind at Limmud since I was among friends. It was only when I spoke to Israelis here that I remembered what I had left behind. I went to lots of Talmud sessions, and really enjoyed the ones led by Shoshana Moss and Nechama Goldman Barash. I also loved the sessions on film with Rich Brownstein. He is a great presenter but also a great thinker and analyst.”

David Brotsky, from New York

Before I came to Limmud, I volunteered in Israel, picking produce. I brought along a group of 10 friends to Limmud. I’ve been to Limmud in America, but here, it’s different. Limmud in the UK is the mothership. It’s like a mini Jewish city for five days, really cohesive and pluralist, especially because of the Israelis who joined us. I went to a session about people dating outside of the faith and people gave very honest reflections. I think the pluralism and unity at Limmud give people the space to express themselves. 

Charlotte Stone, 62, from London

“This is my first Limmud since, due to work, I have been unable to go until now, but I wasn’t disappointed. I went to the first ever baby-naming at a Shabbat service on Limmud, a talk on nature in Israel and a Ceilidh, as well as all the LSJS talks I should have gone to over the past year. The bar in the evening was extraordinary. It was bursting with the widest range of people I’d ever met. It was first year I didn’t watch TV on Christmas Day.

Emma Sevitt, 47, from north-west London

“Limmud is an opportunity for my family from all over the world to get together. My parents come over from Canada, and my two-year old son is able to share this experience with them. Taking further steps on our Jewish journey is fundamental to our family’s Jewish learning. One of my favourite sessions was Robbie Gringras’ and Abi Dauber Sterne’s For The Sake of Argument, which gave a superb pedagogical approach to how to examine the war from multiple lenses and allow yourself to see the other side.”

Peter Sevitt, 76, lives in Toronto, but is originally from Birmingham

"We’ve been coming to Limmud for 25 years. There’s no question that our daughter Emma has inspired us with her Judaism and she encouraged us to come on Limmud. We brought the experience back to Toronto with us and organised the first ever Limmud there. Limmud has been a continual exploration for me of everything to do with Judaism, as a religion, a culture and an ethnicity. The family aspect of Limmud is huge for us since we are able to come here with our two-year old grandson. The best session I attended this time was a session called Hamas and I with journalist Elhanan Miller about his interviews with members of Hamas. 

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