Q: What were your most memorable moments from Limmud Conference?
Rabbi Lea Mühlstein says…
There are two things I took with me from Limmud conference. The first was a reminder of how exciting and invigorating a learning community can be.
Limmud is a truly unique place that brings people of all ages together for no purpose other than to enrich their Jewish lives.
Once everyone has returned home, it can be difficult to maintain this commitment to learning. But it isn’t all or nothing. Many communities and Jewish organisations offer Jewish learning all year round and, even for those who don’t live close to a Jewish centre, there is now an extensive offer of online opportunities.
The second thing I’m taking is an appreciation of the fact that the debate about Israel is alive and well in the UK Jewish community. Limmud excelled in bringing a range of speakers representing various opinions on what the future holds for Israel. And while, or maybe because, the speakers didn’t always agree with each other, Ari Shavit, Gershon Baskin, Rabbi Arik Ascherman and Aziz Abu Sarah, to name just a few, engaged everyone in an open and lively debate.
On the whole, the debate was conducted in a very civilised manner without raised voices or accusations of the other side being traitors or racists.
I hope we can continue our debates and discussions on Israel within the UK Jewish community in the same way. If we can learn that from Limmud, it will have done a real service for the British Jewish community.
• Lea Mühlstein is rabbi at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue
David Walsh says…
Working for the Board of Deputies, I’m accustomed to dealing with cross-communal sensitivities, often walking a tightrope to ensure a consensus is achieved and reflected.
The refreshing thing about Limmud is that it’s not about consensus, policy or labels: it is one huge space where we can all come and just ‘be’. Much has been made about Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ attendance in the past couple of years.
While it is very welcome, alongside the leadership of all branches of Judaism, it’s refreshing that Limmud’s popularity and standing are the result of our most vital asset: the communal grassroots.
The next Limmud conference will be at a new venue in Birmingham. Some are concerned about a potential move away from the communal atmosphere for which it is so famed, but Limmud has gone from strength to strength while never playing with its volunteer, grassroots-led core.
At the same time, the support shown for Limmud by the established organisations – including Liberal Judaism, the Movement for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue, Masorti Judaism, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Agency and other communal organisations which run sessions alongside prominent visitors and community figures – shows just what a force to reckon with the Jewish community can be when the efforts of the grassroots and the ‘establishment’ combine.
• David Walsh is part of Liberal Judaism’s Emerging Leadership Network and a member of Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation