Limmud New Orleans brings community together in unique ways

This year’s Limmud New Orleans, a regional weekend of Jewish learning for all ages and all levels of knowledge, reflects a trans-denominational approach in the local community.

The volunteer-led weekend brings together Jews of all background for a celebration of Jewish culture, arts, learning and teaching. All of the presenters are volunteers, with a heavy reliance on local talent, supplemented with some national figures.

But it’s more than an eclectic group of presenters. This year, Limmud will make history with its expansion over Shabbat in a way that brings the community together. Limmud NOLA chair Gail Chalew said “many Limmud events include Shabbat and offer religious services of all denominations. But this will be the first Limmud ever to have all the synagogues themselves offering services under one roof, under Limmud auspices.”

The community’s synagogues will all hold their services at Temple Sinai. Touro and Gates of Prayer will have a joint service with Temple Sinai in the sanctuary, while Shir Chadash will hold Conservative services in the chapel, and Beth Israel will have an Orthodox service in the youth lounge, led by the congregation’s new rabbi, Gabe Greenberg. After individual services, participants will come together for meals.

Temple Sinai Rabbi Edward Paul Cohn noted the three Reform congregations will worship together, “each one delighting to proclaim its own musical minhag, from the latest Reform prayer book.”

For those who do not travel on Shabbat, Limmud is emphasizing home hospitality around the Temple Sinai area.

Among the presenters will be Clive Lawton, who founded Limmud England 30 years ago. Scholar-in-residence at the London Jewish Cultural Center, Lawton will be making his debut as a presenter in New Orleans, though he has visited twice before.

Author Rodger Kamenetz will read from his book of poetry. Noa Baum will perform her one-woman play “A Land Twice Promised.” Benji Lovitt, an American Jew who made aliyah to Israel, will do a comedy session about life in Israel.

Nili Simhai, a leader in environmental education, will lead a meditative walk through Audubon Park. Maya Kadosh, deputy consul general for the Israeli Consulate in Houston, will lead a session on views of Israel. Rabbi Steven Silberman of Ahavas Chesed in Mobile will also be a presenter.

There will be over 90 sessions in the categories of history, arts and culture, spirituality, Israel, social justice, contemporary Jewish life, family, text and thought, and Southern Jewish life.

Sessions include a 50th anniversary discussion of the impact of Nostra Aetate on Catholic-Jewish relations, a history of pickle making, “Punk Jews,” print making, Jews and atheism, Chassidic dance, investing in Israeli companies, the New Orleans connection to touring Israel, wine tasting, Jews Pursuing Justice, “How Jews in the U.S. became white,” “Jewish lawyers, Islamic law,” puns in the Bible, Jewish Dryades Street and a panel on JNOLA.

Limmud starts with registration on March 7 at 5 p.m. at Temple Sinai, and runs through 5 p.m. on March 9. The Sunday sessions will be at the Lavin-Bernick Center at Tulane University.

This year also introduces a Young Limmud program for ages 4 to 12. There will be music, nature walks, art activities, a joint parent-child social action activity, and storytelling with nationally known children’s book author, Amy Meltzer. Babysitting will be available for ages 1 to 3.

Chalew said everyone is encouraged to spend a weekend in a Jewish world with several hundred fellow Jews interested in expanding their Jewish horizons.

“You will have meals with people from all streams of Jewish life, have the opportunity to celebrate Shabbat by taking a nature walk, learn more about everything from pickle making to Torah text, take part in designing a Limmud mural, be entertained by visiting comedians and artists, gain new insights into the Jewish past and present in Louisiana,” Chalew said. “You will see old friends and make new ones — that’s the Limmud experience.”

Registration includes as many sessions as one wants to attend, kosher meals and snacks. Through Feb. 28, registration for all three days is $75 for ages 30 and up, $40 for ages 18 to 30 and $15 for children. For those attending just Saturday night and Sunday, registration is $50 for adults, $25 for young adults and $5 for children. Pricing increases after Feb. 28.

Registration is online here.