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Lisa Appel in Jewish Circus Acts teaches mitzvot to Peacock Feather balancing youth and adults at Young LimmudPhilly.(Photo credit: Curtis Roth)

LimmudPhilly successfully unites and delights
Volunteers for 2010 now welcome aboard

-- Rabbi Goldie Milgram

“I often hear that Judaism is dying, that the Philly community does not get involved, and young people rarely show enthusiasm toward Jewish events in our region. Just the fact that so many people, especially younger ones, took a chance and supported this first-time event that was virtually unknown to most of them truly thrilled me. While crossing Broad and Pine, which has never seen so many pedestrians on a typical Sunday afternoon at that intersection, I overheard a woman on a cell phone saying to the other party, ‘I am at a conference that you would have loved!’ I think that the sense of community and inclusiveness was so special,” legitimately kvelled last month’s LimmudPhilly program co-chair Jerry Silverman.

Over 90 presenters and 600 Jews and significant others from every walk of Jewish life came to Philadelphia’s center city to attend the vast range of sessions at LimmudPhilly, a joyful, deep, fully-inclusive and Jewish learning diversity-nurturing conference model developed in England that is now being adopted world-wide. Committee member Curtis Roth accurately depicts what this reporter saw: “The atmosphere was akin to an ‘instant college,’ rising like a phoenix for only one weekend in Philadelphia, yet all who attended immediately got in-step, as if Limmud had been occurring every weekend for the past year. The almost effortless mechanical ability of everyone to scuttle from one session to another demonstrated that few barriers can be erected between Jews seeking to learn and knowledge waiting to be found. The excitement and conversation aroused by this "buffet" of seemingly endless topics was fascinating, and the desire to partake in as much as possible was amazing to observe. Though I'm not a particularly ‘observant’ Jew, LimmudPhilly certainly made me a prouder one.”

LimmudPhilly leaderships Rabbi Lauren Grabelle-Herman, Rita D. Siegle and Sara Levy joyfully caucus as conference begins. (Photo credit: Curtis Roth)

LimmudPhilly founders, funders, organizers, teachers and participants definitely did Philly proud. The learning buffet was extensive and arrayed for every age group and approach to being Jewish. Just walking into the children’s program set the stage for how creative the programming would prove throughout the conference – children balancing peacock feathers on their fingertips were calling out mitzvahs they know and love while being guided by a Lisa Appel in her brilliant Jewish Circus Acts. There were performances such as that of the Folksbeine Troupe and the feminist a cappella group Miraj, and alternative Israeli music sessions. There were impassioned, safe, skillfully facilitated Jewish discussions about politics in Israel and America were scattered throughout the program, including Philadelphia Jewish Voice editor Adena Potok moderating a lively session on the theme of political service and social justice between legislators Daylin Leach and Allyson Schwartz, with many staying on after the session adjourned to continue.

Individual workshops covered topics from mitzvot, ethics, theatre, storytelling, Shoah, Jewish calligraphy, belief and disbelief in God, Jews in sports, state of the art updates in archaeology, how to lead services, become peace-makers, watch a one-person show on Jewish family relationships, speak Yiddish, help shape and understand the eco-kosher debates, become a Jewish storyteller, and to study Jewish views of the afterlife, the blessing of the sun, how to make Judaism more teen friendly, midrash, and Jewish art, of course.

This is the film trailer for Faces of Israel.

Films were screened such as Faces of Israel, with interviews of leading Israeli figures across the full spectrum of Jewish life regarding matters of who is a Jew, what is a Jewish divorce, professors from area universities gave scholarly takes on topics like whether the Exodus really happened, and every possible method of experiential education from meditation to juggling, to playback theatre was employed by presenters.

Made locally affordable through the generosity of Phil and Isabel Lindy and a grant from the Federation of Jewish Agencies, conference co-chairs Rabbi Lauren Grabelle-Herman and Rita D. Siegle cultivated an exceptional pan-communal leadership, planning team which LimmudPhilly volunteer Ann Lazarus describes: “The steering committee became such a family and we welcomed all of the presenters and participants as additional members of something very special.”

Program co-chair Sara Levy reports how thrilled she was that “It was a truly intergenerational meeting, and the energy was wonderful. I also felt that there were a great many people I didn't know--which was also exciting….I found the chevruta session revelatory. I've done them before but never had an experience like that one.” The chevruta track is an international Limmud commitment, uniquely guided partner study of sacred texts in Hebrew and translation that, this year at LimmudPhilly, opened up the role of metaphor in Torah study.

Congratulations a job well-done LimmudPhilly! Limmudphilly welcomes volunteers to help plan 2010. Those interested please contact Ross Berkowitz at ross@limmudphilly.org.

To view previous editions of "Community", please click here.

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