Limmud has made a largely positive impact on the Jewish life of its volunteers, according to a survey for the cross-communal education organisation.
From the first conference in the UK in 1980, the organisation has grown to attract an estimated 40,000 people a year in events across the Jewish world.
Sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris, who was commissioned by Limmud to carry out the research, found “clear evidence” that it “advances the majority of its volunteers on their Jewish journeys. And for a significant proportion, it takes them further towards greater interest in and commitment to Jewish life.”
The findings were based on more than 500 responses to an online survey of 10 Limmud groups in eight countries covering America, South Africa, South America and Europe, including the UK. They also reflected focus groups at the Limmud Festival in Warwick last year and discussions at the recent global forum for Limmud volunteers in Israel.
Eighty-nine per cent of volunteers said Limmud had increased their Jewish knowledge, 68 per cent felt it had deepened their sense of connection to the Jewish people and 65 per cent said it had led to greater engagement with Jewish learning. Eighty-two per cent believed Limmud had enabled them to interact with Jews from different backgrounds to their own.
“You get out of your comfort zone,” one respondent said.
Dr Kahn-Harris said the finding that 20 per cent of the volunteers had been inspired by Limmud to help launch Jewish initiatives was “very significant.
“It only takes a few such initiatives to have a substantial impact on Jewish communities.”
Forty-eight per cent said they had become more involved in their Jewish community as a result of Limmud —three times as many as those who felt the opposite.
Thirty-seven per cent said their Jewish interest and commitment had increased since their first Limmud. Eleven per cent said it had diminished.
Although 52 per cent reported no change in their Jewish interest and commitment, Dr Kahn-Harris believed Limmud might well be a factor in “sustaining” it.
Positive impact was greatest among those under 40, his survey found, and there was no difference among the various denominations.
“When Limmud invests in volunteers through providing training and subsidies, higher levels of impact are achieved,” he said.
“Funding more young people to enable them to participate and volunteer will lead to greater impact on them, on Limmud and on the Jewish community.”
But he suggested the organisation took steps to reduce the risk of burnout among volunteers.