I spent 2 very fruitful years living in Moishe House Philly. I hosted Shabbat dinners, organized Passover seders, did yoga for the first time, all the while making friends that I hope to keep for the foreseeable future. My friends outside of MHP joked that I had gotten "as Jewish as I could possibly get." My new coworkers at the school where I taught thought the same thing. Little did they know I was about to become impassioned with my next Jewish context: LimmudPhilly.
Explained simply, LimmudPhilly is part of a large global network of volunteer-led conferences that every year provides various Jewish learning options for thousands of people aged 0-90 (or higher if we Jews have any of those). There are sessions on traditional text study and/or lecture, performance art, movies, shmoozing, food-tasting, Jewish paper cutting and origami; it is a veritable feast of Jewish culture. After attending my first Limmud conference in 2009 I became enamored by the whole idea of something of that nature being created by volunteers.
Naturally, I got more involved. During my second year living at MHP, I took on a larger leadership role in the 2010 conference. During the planning stages, they asked me if I wanted to be in charge in 2011 and offered me a free ticket to the UK to see the mother of all Limmud conferences take place. December 2009 I experienced 2500 people of all different shapes, sizes, political viewpoints and even religions, talking, eating, learning together. I even made a good friend named Nikki who I stay in touch with to this day!
Fast forward to March 4-6, 2011. LimmudPhilly 2011 takes place with 450 people. We expanded our program to be a whole weekend in downtown Philadelphia. Shabbat was at the core of our community-building and people from across the region came to visit and take part. While I attended sessions of all different kinds, the most important lesson I learned was that I am able to deal with major problems as they arise and not go crazy. It was an amazing weekend and we got so much positive feedback from presenters, vendors, and participants.
Moishe House Philly was a way for me to learn what I could do with the young adult section of the Philadelphia Jewish community. While I moved out in order to take on this larger responsibility, I maintain touch with the current residents and offer to help where I can (after all, I only moved 3 blocks away). I was pleased when all of them attended the conference and got something interesting out of it. Perhaps I can get them more involved in planning it in the future!
Overall, LimmudPhilly 2011 was a great success. The lessons I have learned over the past few years by being involved in the Jewish community of Philadelphia will be a true asset for my future plans. I only hope I can instill this passion in others in our community so that they, too, can feel the exhilaration of planning a great event (large or small).
I look forward to getting you all involved as I start planning for LimmudPhilly 2012!
Brian Cohen, former Moishe House Philly resident.