LimmudFest New Orleans announces first speakers for March

Registration for LimmudFest New Orleans will open on Jan. 15. The weekend festival of Jewish learning, arts, culture and spirituality will be held in New Orleans the weekend of March 17, with over 70 sessions by local, regional and national presenters, with several subject tracks. One of 80 such festivals in communities around the world, it is planned and run entirely by volunteers.

This will be the first in-person LimmudFest in New Orleans since 2018. The 2020 festival was cancelled just days before, due to the start of the Covid pandemic. A virtual festival was held in 2021.

Carla Friend, Rich Cohen and Rabbi Anne Brener have been the first three speakers announced for the weekend.

Friend is the founder and executive director of Tkiya, an nonprofit organization that uses participatory music experiences to help thousands of families find their unique connection with Jewish culture and community. Though the group is known as an expert in early childhood education and family engagement, they also create programming for participants of all ages.

Friend is a 2018 recipient of the Young Pioneers Award from the Jewish Education Project, a 2019 recipient of “36 Under 36” from the Jewish Week in New York, a graduate of UpStart Venture Accelerator’s Cohort 11, and is a JKids Radio artist. She recently released a new album of family-friendly Jewish music, “Challalalah!”

Cohen is the author of 13 books, co-creator of the HBO series “Vinyl,” and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone. H will discuss his book “The Fish That Ate the Whale,” about Samuel Zemurray, a controversial figure who developed the banana industry in the United States and whose company controlled Central American countries, leading to the coining of the term “banana republic.”

“Sam the Banana Man” immigrated to the United States in 1891, winding up in Selma. Traveling to Mobile in 1895, he started his banana business, then moved to New Orleans in 1905, starting the Cuyamel Fruit Company. He was active in supporting the Zionist movement, and donated what is now the president’s mansion at Tulane.

Brener is a New Orleans native who is a faculty member of the Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles and a founding faculty member of Yedidyas Morei Derekh— Jewish Spiritual Direction Training Program. She is a psychotherapist, spiritual director, and author of “Mourning and Mitzvah: Walking the Mourner’s Path.”

At LimmudFest, she will lead a Shabbat morning service, a Jewish meditation workshop, and a session on Jewish responses to grief and loss.

The New Orleans LimmudFest is designed as a regional event, usually drawing about 400 participants. Geared to every group in the Jewish umbrella, the weekend is about learning for learning’s sake. Shabbat events are at Gates of Prayer in Metairie, where services are held in Reform, Conservative and Orthodox traditions under the same roof, after which all meals are enjoyed together.

Volunteers are being sought for programming, publicity and organizational outreach, logistics, Young Limmud and family outreach, food, and coordinating volunteers.

Details can be found here.