Limmud to have tightened security measures after Hamas terror attack

Chair Hannah Gaventa also stressed it would be 'the biggest community festival of the year'


It is business as usual at Limmud, which will be “the biggest community festival of the year”, its chair said this week.

A huge rise in antisemitism following the terrorist attack in Israel and the war in Gaza has done nothing to dent the enthusiasm of Hannah Gaventa for the cross-communal educational and cultural event, which, she says, will fulfil “the overwhelming desire of people in the Jewish community to be together”.

At the same time, she told the JC, organisers would be adapting provisions in light of events in the Middle East and increased tensions in the UK.

At pains to reassure participants, Gaventa said that there would be tightened security measures at the Birmingham hotel they use and that, as has always been the case, only festival participants would be able to stay at the venue during Limmud.

“We are working closely with the police, CST and an additional security company to make sure that all participants are safe.

“There will be security at every entrance and exit and participants have always been required to wear a badge to show they are part of the festival.”

There will also be a series of wellbeing sessions run by psychologists from Israel who have had experience of supporting people caught up in previous conflicts.

“They will talk to us about being aware of the signs of burnout and how best to look after ourselves and others,” said Gaventa.

This will be in addition to a wellbeing hub, which will offer yoga, meditation and art therapy sessions. “It will be open to all ages and be a place for people to take time out and come and have a chat if they’d like to.”

The organising team of 45 people are also being provided with extra care, said Gaventa, who is herself a humanitarian aid practitioner. “We have been preparing for the festival since May, and I noticed that the team needed additional support, so before the festival, we will be running a psychological first-aid course for them.”

This would ensure that “we are caring for the carers — giving the volunteer team the tools to deliver an amazing festival.”

With 250 presenters covering 650 sessions between 22 and 27 December, Gaventa said that a number of speakers would be adapting their sessions to reflect recent events in the Middle East and the UK.

“Organisations such as UJIA and the New Israel Fund will be sharing the work they are doing now in the context of the conflict, and educator Robbie Gringras, who runs the educational initiative For the Sake of Argument, will be holding sessions where people are invited to come and disagree with each other and have a constructive conversation.

“This was always part of the plan, but now it will be much more connected to what is going on in Israel and Gaza.”

She said that it was important that Limmud, which is a cross-communal event, was “a space for everyone’s views to be heard, rather than people just being on social media.

“At Limmud, they can actually be with other people and explore their own thoughts and feelings.”

Gaventa said that she was expecting the festival to attract 1,800 people “aged zero to 100”, up from last year’s 1,300 participants.

“Straight after the terrorist attacks, bookings slowed down, but we are now seeing bookings increase daily. This includes a lot of first-timers.

“I think that this year’s festival is going to be really special. It will be really community-focused, so people will feel that they aren’t alone in a crisis.”

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