The first list of sessions for LimmudFest New Orleans has been released, with speakers presenting a wide range of talks and discussions for the weekend of Jewish learning. Over 70 sessions will be led by local, regional and national presenters, all of whom are volunteering their time.
LimmudFest will be March 17 to 19, with Shabbat events at Gates of Prayer in Metairie and Sunday sessions at the Uptown Jewish Community Center. For those around the region wishing to attend, home hospitality can be arranged, within walking distance if needed.
A new feature is the Lyrical Limmudniks, a choir under the direction of Gates of Prayer Cantorial Soloist Jordan Lawrence. Contemporary and traditional pieces will be rehearsed for a community performance on the final day of LimmudFest. No singing experience is necessary.
National presenters include Rich Cohen, the author of “Tough Jews” and “Sam Zemurray: The Fish that Ate the Whale.” Zemurray was a larger-than-life figure who cornered the banana industry and was a giant figure in New Orleans. Rabbi Anne Brener, a native New Orleanian, will lead a meditation-themed Shabbat service and a session on healing from loss. Shamu Sadeh, a Jewish farmer in Connecticut, will lead a session on what it means to be made from the dust of the Earth.
Eli Sperling, the Israel Institute Teaching Fellow in the University of Georgia’s Department of International Affairs, will do presentations on the Abraham Accords, and the shifts in Israeli electoral politics and American reaction to the changes.
David Singer, the CEO of Limmud North America, will lead a session on “Animating Jewish Community: Four Rabbis’ Trip to Paradise,” a Talmudic tale that gives insight to the hopes and fears of the rabbis, and how to build a brighter future.
Local author Rodger Kamenetz will lead a reading and discussion of “The Missing Jew,” representing almost 50 years of his work in poetry. Shir Chadash Rabbi Scott Hoffman will present “From the Seder Table to Café Du Monde,” discussing how to progress from slavery days, as the New Orleans institution was founded in 1862.
Peter Wolf will discuss his great-great grandfather, Leon Godchaux, who started as a penniless immigrant and became the Sugar King of Louisiana, an industry he refused to enter until slavery ended.
Preservation Hall’s Ben Jaffe will present “My Life in Music,” and Lizzi Meister of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience will lead a teen session on being Southern and Jewish. Jakob Rosenzweig and Clifford Kern will lead a session about the 15 Jewish cemeteries in New Orleans, and the recent project that mapped all of them.
Arnie Fielkow and David Hammer will present “Antisemitism and Racism in Sports: Can Jewish and African American Athletes and Leaders Effectively Combat It?”
Hannah Chalew will present a hands-on session on oak gall, which can be harvested from Louisiana trees and made into the type of ink used in Jewish holy writing. Participants will learn the history of the ink, how to make it, and also create a bamboo pen.
In addition to topic tracks, there will be teen and children’s programs, and babysitting will also be available.
As of press time, none of the sessions had been given their time slots.
As a pluralistic learning weekend, Shabbat services will be held under one roof, at Gates of Prayer, with different services reflecting Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Alternative streams. Meals will then be held as one community.
This will be the first in-person LimmudFest New Orleans since 2018, as the 2020 version was cancelled at the last moment by the Covid pandemic. A virtual festival was held in 2021.
Registration information is at limmudnola.org. Early bird pricing is available through Feb. 22, with an adult weekend pass at $100, and Sunday only at $65. Young adult, up to age 30, is $50 and $36, respectively, and children’s passes are $18 for the weekend.