LimmudFest New Orleans casts a regional net

The recently-announced LimmudFest New Orleans will be expanding for its third incarnation — both in duration and geography.

LimmudFest is a festival of Jewish learning that celebrates culture and community. Organized and run entirely by volunteers, LimmudFest is designed to appeal to Jews of all backgrounds, denominations, ages, and interests, including newcomers, the unaffiliated, and young adults.

An expected 500 participants from throughout the region will be able to choose from among more than 90 learning sessions that will be offered on everything Jewish, ranging from art and music to text study and history.

There are numerous simultaneous tracks of programming: Israel, Spirituality, Contemporary Jewish Life and Identity, Arts and Culture, Social Justice, Text and Thought, History and Family.

The third LimmudFest New Orleans will be held for three days, March 7 to 9, and organizers hope to have an increased regional presence in participants and presenters.

The expanded schedule includes a full Shabbat. According to conference organizer Gail Chalew, the Reform and Conservative congregations will be holding their Shabbat services at LimmudFest in the spaces at Temple Sinai, followed by common meals and learning sessions. Orthodox and meditation services will also be held at LimmudFest.

Sunday programs will be held at Tulane University’s Lavin-Bernick Center.

“LimmudFest is an enrichment opportunity for the Jewish soul,” says Chalew. “It is a weekend full of learning, teaching, and discussions on topics ranging from the secular to the reform and in subjects as diverse as environmentalism, religion, Israel, and Jewish life and history in New Orleans and the South.”

There are 45 Jewish communities in the United States and Europe, Africa, South America and the Middle East that take part in this grassroots Jewish learning experience.

“Whether in Vilnius, Paris, the Galil, Durban, or Argentina, every Limmud is guided by the same principles of choice, diversity and participation,” Chalew said.

The first three national and international presenters were also announced. Clive Lawton helped found Limmud England about 30 years ago and has guided it ever since. A scholar-in-residence at the London Jewish Cultural Center, he will be visiting New Orleans for the third time but for the first time as a Limmud presenter.

Amy Meltzer will also be presenting. She blogs about raising Jewish children at Homeshuling. She is also co-author of “A Mezuzah on the Door” and “The Shabbat Princess.”

Jerusalem native Noa Baum will bring her storytelling to LimmudFest. She combines performance art with practical applications of storytelling in business, community and education.

Baum has presented at hundreds of venues, including The World Bank, The Mayo Clinic, The Kennedy Center, The U.S. Defense Department, GWU Law School, Brandeis and Stanford Universities, and Hebrew University. At LimmudFest she will be performing her one-woman play, “A Land Twice Promised,” a show of Israeli and Palestinian women’s stories.

Home hospitality for Shabbat, including for Shomer Shabbat participants, is being organized. Special rates are also available at the Hampton Inn Garden District on St. Charles.

Registration for LimmudFest includes kosher meals and snacks, children’s activities, and babysitting. Registration for all three days is $75 for adults 30 and older, $40 for ages 18 to 30, and $15 for children 17 and younger. Registration for Saturday night and all day Sunday is $50 for adults, $25 for young adults and $5 for children.

Previous LimmudFests in New Orleans were held in 2010 and 2012. Atlanta also holds a Southeast LimmudFest at Ramah Darom during Labor Day weekend.