They keep Planet Limmud turning


Limmud volunteers have spoken of the challenges they face in building a conference which meets the needs of 2,500 attendees.

Behind the scenes, Jews from all over the country give their time to take on the responsibility of creating what Ruth Finkel, a volunteer who helps those with learning disabilities, describes as “planet Limmud”.

“It’s a parallel universe,” Ruth says, “where everyone gets on with each other. There’s tolerance and no judgment based on race, gender, age or anything. It’s just a wonderful egalitarian community.”

Robin Cooke, 24, is co-chair of the Chavruta Project, which collects texts from around the world to encourage Limmudniks to discuss a particular theme. At this year’s conference, he reveals, the theme is food.

The effort needed to make this utopia possible naturally encounters hurdles. Robin Cooke, for instance, says that being part of a volunteer-led exercise creates a number of difficulties.

“We’re not sure who we answer to most of the time, so we really just have free rein until someone tells us to stop. Very rarely does that actually happen.

“Obviously, we need to get approval from the right people, but we’re in no man’s land, at both the top and bottom of the ladder.”

Robin, a former LJY-Netzer Movement worker, who lives in Jerusalem, says the lack of formal organisation means he and his co-chair Sam Grant can create new initiatives under their own steam.

Hayden Cohen has volunteered to put together Limmud’s live-streaming and podcasts for the past three years, and has now convinced organisers that the programme deserves its own official chair.

He says he has been “nagging them in a friendly way for a couple of years that they need someone to fill this role, because I felt it was a gap. I pushed and pushed, and now we’ve got it. There was no one else to push for it.”

Hayden, a 28-year-old comedian from Leeds, explains the unique way organisers react to issues at the event:
“There’s a Limmud way of doing things. It’s taken me many years to get into the swing of how Limmud operates.

There will be issues and problems, which require flexible thinking. You just have to go with the flow, and
know that everyone’s heart is in the right place.”

Sam Marine, 22-year-old Young and Teen Limmud co-chair, says planning for conference, “involves coming up with interesting programmes. You can get in the habit of recycling stuff.

“I was at university when I started working on Limmud. It just becomes another extra-curricular activity.

“I came in relatively last minute. Recruiting, sorting out logistics, organising it so everyone can afford to go, writing content, keeping an eye out for everyone, making sure stuff is handed in on deadline — it all has to be done.

“I’m excited to be in a situation with so many Jews having such a great time,” says an enthusiastic Sam Marine, “because I wasn’t really a part of youth groups when I was younger.”

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