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Limmud: The Jewel in European Jewry’s crown

December 30th, 2009 Comments off

From the Jerusalem Post, December 28, 2009.  Another reason to register for Limmud Chicago!

Limmud:  The jewel in European Jewry’s crown

Picture the scene today. It is a cold, icy winter morning. It is the holiday season between Christmas and the new year when most of the inhabitants of the British isles are tucked away in their beds, with little intention of getting up before midday. Silence is the order of the day. But in one place, on a university campus on the outskirts of Warwick in the center of England, there is action. People are eating a quick breakfast in a university refectory and are scurrying off to lectures that begin at 8 a.m. and that will continue unabated until almost midnight.

And despite this early, cold, uninviting hour, most of the lecture halls are full with people who have decided to spend the Christmas week in a program of intense, voluntary study. There will be classes on almost every possible topic relating to Jewish culture, religion, history and literature, as well as discussions and lectures on anti-Semitism, Israel, liturgy, prayer – just think of a topic and it is there. There will also be films, evening events, concerts and, for those who wish, an entire weekend Shabbat program prior to the commencement of the main conference.

This is Limmud, an annual week of learning and study which, during the past 15 years, has become the jewel in the crown of European Jewry. Some 2,000-3,000 people register (at no small expense) for the entire week, leaving the comfort of their suburban homes in London and Manchester, to stay in the student dormitories and to devote themselves to an intensive period of self study. This year the demand was so great that the entire university accommodation was booked well in advance and they had to turn people away.

The audience is a diverse one – ranging from teenagers and students to pensioners, from beginners to rabbis, judges and professors – but there are no titles at Limmud. You attend as an individual and unless you are one of the people actually giving a lecture, you are no more or less important than the person who is sitting on the chair next to you in the auditorium or dining hall.

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