The largest Limmud UK conference opened today with around 2,700 people expected over the course of the five-day event at its new venue in Birmingham.
“We’re loving the new site,” said David Hoffman, incoming chairman of the Limmud organisation, who was helping one of the more senior participants with a walker to register in the lobby of the Hilton Metropole which will serve as the main base.
“It feels different but there are plenty of Limmud events round the world which are in a hotel,” he said. “We have the benefit of having all the programmes in the same place.
“The only thing is you can be so absorbed in it you have to make sure you go outside once in a while to get some fresh air.”
Volunteers had decked the hotel with pennants, rosettes and coloured footprints to help people find their way around.
Clive Lawton, one of the four founders of the Limmud conference 35 years ago, said: “I think it’s grand – Limmud with chandeliers. I’m so impressed with the way they have Limmudified it, the building feels like it belongs to us, not the hotel.”
Around 600 people had already bedded in the new location at a pre-conference Shabbaton.
Participant Michal Ish-Horowicz said she was having “a great time so far. The plush surroundings are a bit of a strange juxtaposition but I’m not complaining about that.”
In previous years, Limmud had taken place on the campus of Warwick University.
Early sessions at this year]s conference ranged from what’s left of Jewish monuments in Syria to how synagogues deal with transgender issues.
A number of sessions over the conference will look at the impact of the increasing complexity of sexual identity and what Mr Lawton described as “the refusal of individuals to define themselves according to simple binary gender”.
There is also a large range of classes on Bible, Talmud and halachah led by tutors from across the Jewish world, while the theme of the lunchtime chavruta – one-to-one study – programme is war and peace.
Organisers said participants ranged from children to those in their eighties and nineties.
Ten per cent were aged 18 or under, while 65 people attending the conference were 80 or over, with four aged 90 plus.
The conference was most popular among 51-69 year-olds who made up 32 per cent of the 2,700 people expected to attend.