Going to Limmud Festival is always a source of wonderment: 2,500 delegates of all ages – from under one year old to over 90 – met at Pendigo Lake in Birmingham for the third year. Hundreds of sessions were given by an international cast of presenters, covering all aspects of Jewishness, from torah texts to issues of being Jewish in the fluid world we now inhabit. There were lots of opportunities to join in, whether in Mizrachi dancing or – new to this year – peopling the everyday story of country folk that is The Archers with Jewish characters. There was a great deal of fun with Eddie Grundy!
One of my favourite sessions this year was about the marginalisation of Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews in an "Ashkenormative world" as the presenters, sister and brother Roxana and Elliot Jebreel put it. There was a huge amount of audience participation from young people like them, who did not feel that the conservative congregations of their parents were right for them, but found their culture – and an identity that is important to them – ignored in the more progressive Ashkenazi communities. There is no Yiddish in their culture and even the word shul felt excluding.
So clamorous was the desire to be heard that they did not get on to the final part of the presentation which was to discuss what can be done about it. JR is going to do as much as possible to cover this issue in our April edition. If you have any experiences you would like to share or ideas for improving the situation, please write to JR’s editor Rebecca (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Another highlight of mine at every Limmud is meeting with people I have not seen for ages. It is such a great opportunity to catch up and discuss what was new and exciting about the sessions we attended.
Very upsettingly, JR’s invited guests from Morocco, Elmehdi Boudra and Laziza Dalil did not get their UK visas so could not attend. It seems preposterous that these brave individuals, who not only set up the Mimouna Association to celebrate Jewish culture in Morocco, but are also working for the advancement of civil society in their country and combatting youth extremism in North Africa, should not be allowed to take up Limmud’s invitation to them. It would have been a great way to show solidarity with what they are doing, which can be isolating in their own country.
I also heard at Limmud other stories of the increasing restrictions on UK visas. One from an American citizen, who was told: “It’s not enough to be going to a conference – that’s the way they get in.” Not good stories to hear about the UK as we start 2018.
Regardless of the few downsides, however, congratulations is in order for the 2017 team of organisers – there is a completely new team every year and they did an incredible job.
By Janet Levin