Let’s be honest.
The beauty of Limmud is that Jews of all backgrounds and beliefs can meet, share a coffee at the (Kosher supervised) catering stand, and discuss their Judaism and Jewish practises, all the whilst acknowledging that it is our differences that make us unique in our beliefs and our similarities which make us part of the wider Jewish community.
Growing up in the Ner Yisrael community, I was taught by my highly educated parents and their peers to respect others, to promote tolerance and understanding within our community, to be confident and secure in my beliefs, to know that there are ‘Shiv’im Panim la’Torah’ and to look outwards, to the wider community and even to the rest of the world.
At university, I met Reform Jews, Liberal Jews, Masorti Jews and even Atheist Jews. All who had different views to mine. Yet I could engage with them because I was strong in my own faith. I knew what I, as an Orthodox Jew, believed in. And we were able to share with each other and delight in the fact that we all had the same heritage. At the end of the day, we all had a Passover seder, a Friday night dinner and believed in the miracle that is the State of Israel. My Passover seder may not have included a guitar accompanying our rendition of ‘Dayenu’. My Friday night dinner may not have had a female Rabbi making Kiddush over the wine. My views on Israel are Zionist, pro-peace AND pro-Palestinian.
Some of my most exciting and inspiring conversations about Judaism and the Jewish community have happened at my weekly shiur, run by a fantastic, highly respected educator (from the Ner community) with my peers who are from Reform, Liberal, Masorti and culturally Jewish backgrounds. All of us have vastly different views and ideas about life. But each week, we join each other to learn and debate, because we are all passionate about the UK Jewish community and its future.
My Jewish upbringing with my parents leading the way exemplifying tolerance and respect, is the core foundation of my beliefs. I am challenged every day when I meet those who share opposing views to mine. Yet I acknowledge their right to their views. And I respect them for their beliefs. I do not choose to hide myself behind a veil of fear and mistrust of ‘the other’. And my own beliefs are strengthened, reinforced and enriched.
As co-chair of the Limmud YADS this year, my role on the steering group of Limmud Conference is to match young adults with voluntary positions. For 6 months prior to Conference, young people get in touch with me and ask if they can volunteer 20 hours of their time whilst at Conference. These young Jews are from all over the UK, with varying degrees of Jewish practise. They are not only willing to spend a week of their holiday time at a Jewish Learning Conference, they are also willing to help out with babysitting, at the nursery, at the bookshop or coffee stall.
It astounds me that each year, more than 2000 people from the UK Jewish community come together for 5 days at Warwick University, purely to learn more about Judaism, Israel, and the Diaspora. We socialise, laugh, dance Israeli dances (separate dancing available) and even eat some Hummus, all the whilst learning Tanach and Gemara, discussing a talk we’ve been to that day and deciding which one to go to next.
Snappy titles draw us to the sessions, and how many there are! The Beit Midrash is open and thriving from 8am until 1am, with educators on hand to help those who need it with Hebrew translation, guidance and explanations. There are at least 6 options for every time slot throughout the day, and no-one at Conference is seen without clutching the Limmud Choveret, nose to book highlighting and underlining, lest they were to miss out on a great speaker, a fantastic panel debate or even that Jewish musician they have always wanted to meet. Sessions begin at 8.30am and run until midnight, with over a thousand presenters and hundreds of topics to choose from.
The future leaders of the UK Jewish community are participants and presenters at Limmud Conference. This Jewish community is positive, forward thinking, unified and respectful. One which I feel proud of, and am honoured to consider myself a part of.
Judaism and Jewish education is at its peak at Limmud Conference. And I would not miss it for the world.
Please note that my views are my own and not the official position of Tzedek, Limmud or any other organisation.