New Orleans Limmudfest Going Regional

The second New Orleans LimmudFest will be held in March, and organizers are hoping to make this event a more regional weekend.

LimmudFest is a celebration of Jewish learning and community, with over 100 available sessions in a wide range of topics, from religious to cultural and historic. The main event will be held March 10 and 11 at Tulane University’s LBC Building.

This year, LimmudFest will include Shabbat, starting with a Shabbat dinner. Many area synagogues will host Limmud presenters as scholars-in-residence on Shabbat morning, March 10. The main festival starts with a musical Havdalah that evening, featuring musician Sam Glaser. Sessions will run all day on March 11.

Entirely organized and run by volunteers, LimmudFest is part of the international Limmud movement. Through art, dance and theater, text study and the sharing of ideas, LimmudFest will celebrate Jewish identity in New Orleans and the South. There will also be a Young Limmud program.

All presenters are volunteers and learners. There is no particular agenda or affiliation; diversity and choice is emphasized.

The first New Orleans Limmud drew over 400 participants in March 2010. Started in the United Kingdom, Limmud has inspired similar learning events in over 60 communities around the world. Other nearby Limmuds include Atlanta, Baltimore and Chicago.

Those from outside the New Orleans area can request assistance with hotels, and home hospitality is also an option.

The schedule of speakers and sessions has yet to be finalized, but some sessions have already been announced.

Alan Brill, author of “Judaism and Other Religions: Models of Understanding,” will present “Encountering Other Religions in a Post-9/11 World: What do Jews think about other relgions” and “Kabbalistic Meditation: A Practical Workshop.” Brill is an Orthodox rabbi, interfaith activist, and Cooperman/Ross endowed professor in honor of Sister Rose Thering at Seton Hall University in East Orange, N.J.

Jonathan Woocher, chief ideas officer for JESNA, will speak on “The Purpose-Driven Jewish Life: Rethinking Jewish Identity and Education,” and “The Jewish Community of the Future, and the Future of the Jewish Community.”

Marc Michael Epstein, the first Director of Jewish Studies at Vassar, will speak on “The Secret Language of Jewish Art” and “The Mystery of the Birds’ Head Haggadah,” created around 1300 in Franco-Germany, in which the heads of most human figures are replaced with what appear to be sharp-beaked and sharp-eyed birds.

Many sessions will have a Southern emphasis. Cathy Glaser, director of the New Orleans regional office for the Anti-Defamation League, will present “The Civil Rights Era in the Deep South: Jewish Stories and the Civil Rights Movement.” She will speak about the ADL’s work during that time, and Bruce Waltzer will speak about his work during that era, and the work of other Jewish attorneys at the time.

The South will also be a theme for Mary Glickman of Johns Island, S.C. Her best-selling debut novel, “Home in the Morning,” explored Southern Jewish life, and she will present a session on “Writing Southern and Jewish.”

Sandy Lassen, head of Chevra Kadisha of Greater New Orleans, will speak on the group in “The Greatest Mitzvah.”

Rabbi Marshal Klaven of the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life will present “Mark them as a Sign: The Truth of Jews and Tattoos,” showing that the issue isn’t as black and white as often portrayed.

Dovetailing with that, Noam Sienna of Waltham, Mass., will present “Henna’s a Jewish Thing? Henna Body Art in Jewish Communities.” Participants will have the opportunity to have some henna painted on them.

Rabbi Yossie Nemes of Chabad Jewish Center of Metairie will speak on “Soul Nigun and Stories,” and “Beyond the Nose Job,” a primer on three areas — physical relations between a man and a woman, views on cosmetic surgery and tattoos, and how a diverse Jewish nation can unite.

Rabbi Robert Loewy of Gates of Prayer in Metairie will lead a session on “Fiddler on the Roof: The Story and Messages Within the Story.”

Daniel Sieradski, one of the organizers of Occupy Judaism, will speak on “Jewish Values and Occupy Wall Street,” discussing how Occupy Judaism brought 1,000 to the protests on Yom Kippur to pray with Jewish protestors. He will also speak on “The Forbidden Tree of Knowledge: Psychedelics and the Bible.”

Michael Weil, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, will speak on “Why Tent Cities in Israel?” Tent protests have been a method of choice in Israel for 70 years.

Registration for LimmudFest is $36 for those over 30, $18 for ages 18 to 30, $10 for ages 13 to 17, and $5 for those under 13. LimmudFest will not turn away anyone because of inability to pay; the Limmud website has a place to request scholarship assistance.

Because the registration fee is a small part of what it costs to produce LimmudFest New Orleans, donations are also welcomed.