Thursday, September 22, 2005

Jewish learning without limits

Registration is open for the second annual Limmud NY! This conference in the Catskills over Martin Luther King weekend (January 12-16) is inspired by the popular Limmud conference in Britain. Limmud NY is three full days of "Jewish learning without limits", going from early in the morning until even earlier the following morning. Topics range from Talmud to music to politics.

Limmud NY is really a community effort: the first one was organized by just one full-time staff member, along with a team of over 70 volunteers (full disclosure: I am among them). Like the National Havurah Committee, Limmud NY runs on the egalitarian principle that every teacher is a student and every student is a teacher. Presenters include big names as well as any participant who wants to offer a session on anything. Teachers and performers participate fully in the rest of the conference, and no honorific titles are used.

Limmud NY is a pluralistic community that includes liberal, Orthodox, and secular Jews from all over the Jewish map (or at least from all over the subset of the Jewish map that is willing to sit down with people from all over the Jewish map). Last year, there were 8 different options for Shabbat services (as well as non-prayer options), and none of them bore the name of a movement. This kind of diversity is made possible when there are 600 people there, and this year it will be even larger, around 800.

Ok, so while that aspect of pluralism might have been done before (at Hillel and elsewhere, though Limmud NY does a more thorough job), Limmud NY achieves two types of pluralism that are rarer: 1) A true multigenerational Jewish community, where people in their 20s and 30s participate as full equals with those who are older and younger, which I have seen only at Limmud NY and the NHC, and 2) a true collaboration between the "alternative" and "mainstream" Jewish communities, where the lion lies down with the lamb and independent minyan entrepreneurs learn alongside suburban synagogue members.

Last year Limmud NY filled up quickly, and this year it will fill up even quicker. Sign up now! If the pricetag is daunting, lots of scholarships are available. The Limmud NY Fellowship lets high school, college, and graduate students go for $150, and other aid is available for non-students as well.

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