A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a few workshops at the LimmudFest New Orleans . Spearheaded by Gail Chalew, Rabbi Uri and an army of volunteers, New Orleans LimmudFest New Orleans is a conference/festival of Jewish learning. Over 50 workshops were taught by local and national luminaries on perhaps the broadest array of topics ever conceived in a two day conference. If you don't believe me check out Sunday's schedule: http://us.conf.masteragenda.com/h/nola2010/conf_browser/index.html . I would say the top three most creative topics were
- Creole/Cajun/Jewish Foodways and Cultures
- Constructing a (Jewish) Poker Face: Femininity, Masculinity, and the Jewish Self
- Blood, Guts, and Gore: Three Approaches to Leviticus
In their own separate ways, each of the Jewish religious denominations in the United States—Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Orthodox Judaism—are facing serious internal challenges—and also the external one of post-denominationalism. What are these challenges, and what is on the horizon for Jewish religious life in the U.S.?
What Jack and many other participants identified on that figurative horizon where the loosely based community learning initiatives such as Limmud, Moishe House, Avodah and Birthright Next that are inter-denominational and detached from Judaism's larger institutions (read: federation and synagogue).
Rabbi Uri in his Passover dvar made an interesting observation about the uniqueness of LimmudFest. It is about choice. The students have the choice to attend whatever class they please at whatever time. This changes the power dynamic between the presenter and the audience by allowing participants to vote with their feet. The presenter is not interesting, well then find a topic that is. This enhances the learning experience, applying just a bit of pressure on the presenters - who are not paid - to truly deliver.
Pictures from LimmudFest