Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

How Limmud keeps it all in the family

Children from toddlers to teens get their own dedicated festival events

    Happy faces at Limmud
    Happy faces at Limmud Photo: Jonathan Hunter

    While the grown-ups are engrossed in midrash and mindfulness in the main Hilton site, it is across the lake at the Crowne Plaza hotel where the real fun is happening. 

    This is the centre of the action for children and families — and the youth programme is one of Limmud’s greatest success stories.

    It is here that hundreds of kids are taking the first steps to further their Jewish journeys and continue the festival’s ethos. 

    Ladod Moshe hayta chava, iya iya oh…” may read oddly, but it is the Hebrew version of Old MacDonald Had a Farm and the sound of a room packed with participants under the age of two singing reverberates as Raya Even David leads a session on the opening afternoon of the festival.

    Public nappy bins on every corridor may not fit with the sort of footloose frolicking being enjoyed by some festival-goers over in the Hilton but it is a nod to the thoughtfulness that has gone into preparing the families venue. 

    Meal-times are organised with all ages of children in mind; milk is readily available for those with younger children; and the walls are plastered day by day with paintings and decorations created by the youngsters.

    Every aspect of the families set-up is developed around Limmud’s wider themes, Gabi Markham and Sam Marine explain. They are the co-chairs of the family provision, providing education, entertainment and food for some 250 children and their parents for the whole of the festival. 

    “It’s like running your own Limmud programme,” explains Ms Markham, a 25-year-old yoga teacher. “We deal with catering, accommodation, the hotel’s needs.”
    She is a former participant in the youth sessions herself and a firm believer in their benefits. 

    “We can shape new Limmud minds and teach Limmud values. We’re also helping the madrichim [leaders] gain experience.”

    Ms Marine adds: “We have international presenters who we have invited for the sessions, the same way the main programme would for adults. But we feel part of the whole festival. This is not just bolted on to what’s happening in the Hilton. We’re not an after-thought.”

    The two co-chairs, their six person sub-team and the nursery staff are all volunteers and have themselves paid to be at Limmud. The provisions are not cheap — for those booking early and getting the best deals, it costs from around £46 per child per day if you stay all week. A family of four, with two parents and two children, could find themselves spending in the region of £1,000 for the full Limmud experience. 

    Whether that is value for money is open to interpretation — but the cost covers accommodation, all meals, childcare for younger children and the educational and entertainment options for older kids. The speed with which family places are booked up, and the number of regular annual attendees, suggests most people feel it is a worthwhile investment.

    The festival options for families cover every age range from babies and toddlers through to teenagers, with dedicated rooms, sessions and presenters almost all in one place. 

    At the end of the afternoons there are group events including concerts, bedtime story readings run by the PJ Library initiative, and even a “nightclub” to occupy older children.

    In the evenings, a baby-listening service allows parents to get out and about without the additional burden of needing to stay in their hotel rooms. 

    Downstairs at the Crowne Plaza, in the sessions being run for primary school children, a group of four- and five-year-olds are learning about the Ten Plagues through songs and actions, hopping around like frogs and making appropriate animal noises. 

    Mia Gray has been coming to Limmud since she was two and was once a participant in such sessions. Now, two decades later, she is leading the Year Two schedule.

    “It is so worthwhile here,” she explains. “I’ve been involved in youth movements but Limmud kids are a different breed. It’s more stimulating working with them. 

    “People don’t realise how formative this is. I got so much from my experience. My madricha was Anna Lawton, and now she is co-chairing the festival. Limmud, and these experiences, have helped shape my identity.”

    This is a thought-process encountered across the festival. For many participants, the event is reminiscent of a family reunion rather than a disparate gathering of thousands of Jews.

    Sitting under colourful bunting, Eva is teaching a group of Year Two children about the different stages of Jewish life. Little hands shoot up as she asks the children if they have ever been to a Jewish wedding and then moves on to discussing the chupah. 

    “You’re too young to get married,” she tells them, “but not too young to do ma’asim tovim [good deeds].”

    This is the Limmud ethos in action. 

    At breakfast one young boy strikes up a conversation by asking how many times I’ve been to Limmud. He is unimpressed when I tell him it is only my second time.

    “I’ve been ten times,” he responds. And how old is he? Ten. 

    In some cases it is the children who have encouraged the parents to attend. With such an engaging programme available, it is little surprise. 

    As Ms Marine points out: “It is a sign that the kids are enjoying themselves that they are so vocal about it. They feel confident to express their opinions and that’s a crucial part of their childcare experience”.

UK News

Chelsea launch antisemitism campaign

Marcus Dysch

Yesterday, 16:19

Chelsea launch antisemitism campaign
UK News

Jewish MP Lucy Frazer gets government job in reshuffle

Marcus Dysch

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Jewish MP Lucy Frazer gets government job in reshuffle
UK News

Suspended Labour activists plan pickets

Marcus Dysch

Monday, January 8, 2018

Suspended Labour activists plan pickets
UK News

United Synagogue criticises paper over sex offender’s advert

Marcus Dysch

Mon, 15:26

United Synagogue criticises paper over sex offender’s advert
UK News

Rudd seeks to reassure over Hezbollah flags issue

Marcus Dysch

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Rudd seeks to reassure over Hezbollah flags issue
Columnists

Stella Creasy disappoints at Limmud

Marcus Dysch

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Stella Creasy disappoints at Limmud
Columnists

An underwhelming reshuffle

Marcus Dysch

Thursday, January 11, 2018

An underwhelming reshuffle
UK News

Corbyn likely to escape Israel's boycott ban

Marcus Dysch

Monday, January 8, 2018

Corbyn likely to escape Israel's boycott ban
UK News

Levine gets key role on new universities watchdog

JC Reporter

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Levine gets key role on new universities watchdog