Limmud 2016: Sea, Sky, and Shiurim

What could be better than sea, sky, sunshine and Shiurim? We had this and more at the 9th annual Festival: nearly 400 people of all ages met at the Neuharlingersiel German Youth Hostel for four days of learning, socializing, great kosher food and fabulous weather (photos here).

Feedback on location and afterwards confirmed: It was another big success for the approximately 20 Limmud volunteers, who had been working on the project for about eight months.

Why are some people already calling it a “highlight of the Jewish year in Germany”? Because it feels like a holiday, where every Jew can celebrate and learn together.

Once again, the festival brought together Jews of all ages and denominations, from secular to Reform to Conservative to Orthodox and traditional, from across the country and beyond, with different life experiences and ways of interacting with both non-Jewish and Jewish environments.

At Limmud they walk the same ground, hear new and sometimes surprising ideas, and share lots in common: bringing children to the kids’ program, lighting candles for Shabbat, looking for someone who was smart enough to bring sun screen lotion, being late for lunch, searching for the “Watthaus” or another classroom with a strange name like “Horumsersiel” (even for German mameloshns difficult to pronounce…), and participating in the 120 workshops and shiurim offered by participants themselves.

There was never an excuse for being bored: “To see or not to see God? That is the question”, “Elijah: from depressed prophet to honored guest at the Brit Mila”, “New- Age = Jew- Age?”, “Frisian Bible translations”, “Who is afraid of the Goyim?”, “Disabilities and Belonging – Building a more inclusive Jewish community,” a Yom Hashoah remembrance ceremony… and more.

Apart from attending countless shiurim and volunteering for many tasks (thank you!), participants had many ways to get involved. Teens performed their own Limmud song at our talent night on the open stage. The Shouk on Friday afternoon provided a forum for organisations to inform us about their work, and for the sale of such goods as jewelry from Israel, CDs from the Three Cantors of the Abraham Geiger College Cantorial Program, Kippot from the Masorti Community in Uganda, and kosher wine from Lampari in Berlin.

Even with 120 sessions to choose from, there was still time to drink tea with friends, and young adults invited everyone to a Kumsitz: singing in Hebrew and English around a campfire. The kids from Bambinim (organised by JDC, Berlin) had their own outdoor pre-shabbat kiddush with grape juice … and Friday evening, as the sun was setting, there were simultaneous Shabbat services (traditional, progressive, Masorti, for women, for families, etc) created by participants, including several rabbis. The entire area was filled with the sound of Kabbalat Shabbat songs coming from all directions. The Friday night meal with singing and conversation was followed by star-gazing. On Shabbat morning, services could be attended, new and old friends sat together in the sun, Shiurim took place as usual, and there was time for taking walks and indulging in such delectable delicacies as chopped liver and cholent (veggie or meat!), followed by a joint Havdalah led by the teens.

The next morning, the teens also joined in a ceremony marking exactly 71 years since the end of World War II.

For those who rose early enough on Sunday, workshops continued… it was difficult to accept the end of the long weekend of learning and communing. How about one more day?!

But as volunteers like to say, “after Limmud is before Limmud.” The volunteers already are talking about next year, when we will mark our tenth annual festival. The big plans can include you, you and you!

See pictures of the whole weekend on Flickr!




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