An Orthodox first timer’s new-found love for Limmud

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

An Orthodox first timer’s new-found love for Limmud

By Julia BAYER, International Relations and Politics, University of Birmingham.

Julia Bayer
Julia Bayer

Growing up in an Orthodox environment and heavily influenced by the media, I had always assumed that Limmud was a bit hippyish, quite left wing and something that wasn’t really for me.

However, the week that Chief Rabbi Mirvis announced that he would be attending Limmud Conference 2013 happened to coincide with his visit to Birmingham J-Soc. Over a Friday night meal we discussed his reasons for attending, and I felt more inclined to do so myself.

I spent my gap year at Midreshet Lindenbaum, a modern-Orthodox seminary in Jerusalem. That was two years ago, and it had been some time since I had been offered an opportunity to study Jewish thought and text for more than a few hours, with teachers and speakers of such a high caliber. When UJS kindly offered a generous subsidy, I leapt at the chance and attended my first Limmud conference.

What I encountered at Limmud was very different to what I had expected. There were a variety of sessions covering all aspects of Judaism. My main interests are Israel, the US, Politics and Tanach, and there was not a single slot where I failed to find one of these subjects being discussed.

I attended many insightful talks from a range of speakers from all over the world. There were several from the LSJS.

Maureen Kendler spoke fantastically on the story of Lot and his wife, exploring the meaning behind the pillar of salt episode. Raphi Zarum discussed when one should consult a Rabbi and whether we should be stringent or flexible when it comes to some halachic matters.

However, the speaker who had the greatest impact on me was Micha Odenheimer. He spoke about keeping Shabbat in Somalia and the problems he faced as an Orthodox Jew in unorthodox places.

I felt Micha, along with many of the other speakers, made me even more certain that there is a way to balance both Orthodoxy and culture – one does not have to come at the expense of the other.

If I’m being entirely honest, most of my preconceptions were based on negative reviews from people who had obviously never attended a Limmud conference. Sure, I did not agree with every speaker. But where is the point in solely engaging with those who reaffirm your own beliefs. In order to really understand where you stand on a topic, I really do believe engaging with the other point of view is essential.

The reality is that Limmud is a place where people care about their Judaism enough to give up a week out of their Christmas holiday to further enhance their Jewish knowledge.

It is a place for every Jew to feel comfortable, regardless of religiosity, and have a chance to explain their beliefs and learn from others. But most importantly, it is an opportunity to learn more about Judaism, a religion, which we all love so much.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: