Bring­ing the eco-friendly into Lim­mud tent

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

“IT’S A fal­lacy that Jews don’t camp and this proves it.” So said Lim­mud in the Woods co-chair Jon Pam af­ter more than 300 sup­port­ers spent a wet and windy Bank Hol­i­day week­end in tents pitched in the Ox­ford­shire coun­try­side en­gag­ing in panel dis­cus­sions, prayer ses­sions and com­mu­nity-build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Held at a scout cen­tre near the sleepy vil­lage of Wrox­ton, the pro­gramme leaned heav­ily to­wards the en­vi­ron­ment, sus­tain­abil­ity and or­ganic food pro­duc­tion. Ses­sions on med­i­ta­tion, veg­e­tar­i­an­ism and tree-hug­ging ap­pealed to the happy campers.

For Annelies Lib­brecht and her Mi­lan-based fam­ily, the week­end pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to mix with like-minded cou­ples and their chil­dren. “The com­mu­nity spirit is great,” the Bel­gian-born mother-of-three ex­plained. “The kids can run free and we learn a lot. We moved to Italy last year so there’s a lan­guage bar­rier and we are not re­ally in­volved in the com­mu­nity there yet. But here we meet a lot of friends.”

Seven-year-old Erin Silk was among a dozen chil­dren who tried their hand at archery in the bet­ter Sun­day morn­ing weather. “I only got one on tar­get but I love it be­cause it’s re­ally fun,” she said.

While the at­mos­phere was laid-back, it was hardly sur­pris­ing that the Gaza con­flict was a hot topic of con­versa- tion around the camp­site. And Is­raeli pol­i­tics fea­tured in Nir Co­hen’s Shab­bat af­ter­noon ses­sion — an adapted ver­sion of Mo­nop­oly, with minia­ture mod­els of Yair Lapid and Naf­tali Ben­nett among the play­ing pieces. This crash course in the com­plex­i­ties of Is­raeli gov­ern­ment oc­ca­sion­ally sparked into life with out­bursts over set­tle­ment build­ing and the prospects for peace. But as Lim­mud chair Kevin Sefton pointed out, the week­end also of­fered an escape for com­mu­nity mem­bers at a time of ris­ing an­ti­semitism. “Peo­ple have con­cerns over what’s hap­pen­ing in the com­mu­nity, but here we can come and just be our­selves. At the mo­ment we re­ally need that.”

Perched on a bale of hay, Mr Sefton high­lighted the dif­fer­ences between the Woods event and its pre­de­ces­sor, the Lim­mud­fest. “The at­mos­phere is very dif­fer­ent here. We have more free­dom and flex­i­bil­ity,” he said. “Peo­ple see the dif­fer­ences between a con­fer­ence and an out­door event. We have to al­low it to grow over time.”

Cater­ing was a ma­jor chal­lenge with around 2,000 meals — all veg­e­tar­ian — served dur­ing the five-day gath­er­ing. Larger items such as lasagnes and quiches were made off-site and trans­ported to Ox­ford­shire. Ev­ery­thing else — veg­eta­bles, chal­lah, desserts — was pre­pared by Lim­mud­niks. “We have to make sure there’s some­thing for ev­ery­one,” said kitchen man­ager Danya Si­mons. “There are peo­ple with al­ler­gies. We have a shomer who comes in and makes sure ev­ery­thing is up to scratch.”

As with all Lim­mud events, at­ten­dees vol­un­teered at least four hours of their time to run ar­eas in­clud­ing food pro­duc­tion. Those pay­ing re­duced fees as part of the Yad scheme con­trib­uted ad­di­tional hours of work on each day of their stay. “We have a good vibe go­ing on,” Ms Si­mons added. “Peo­ple come and get stuck in, even if it’s not their vol­un­teer shift.”

Din­ers ended meals by sep­a­rat­ing ev­ery piece of their biodegrad­able crockery and cut­lery into in­nu­mer­able re­cy­cling bins.

Still on food, Ge­filte­fest vet­eran Shana Boltin’s ve­gan sausage-mak­ing class in­cluded a les­son in pre­par­ing s a u e r k r a u t . He r favourite ver­sion of the cab­bage dish is a jalapeño one, but the ses­sion stuck to a main­stream recipe.

Dis­cussing or­ganic kosher meat, Bib­li­cal Foods founder Leon Pein guar­an­teed the rapt at­ten­tion of his au­di­ence by de­scrib­ing non-or­ganic chick­ens as “a bit like porn stars. They are man­u­fac­tured­to­have­huge­breasts­but­their­bod­ies can­not carry the weight. They look good in a su­per­mar­ket, but that’s all.”

‘We can be our­selves. At the mo­ment we re­ally need that’

In the field hous­ing young Lim­mud, Evie Le­viten-Law­ton was over­see­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for 70 chil­dren aged four to 14. She said the pri­or­i­ties were or­gan­is­ing a “mix of fun stuff, run­ning around and Jewish ses­sions and learn­ing”.

As temperatures dropped on Satur­day night, a ses­sion ex­am­in­ing the kashrut of whisky drew a small but knowl­edge­able crowd. As Rabbi Zvi Solomons had ear­lier taken on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of in­stalling the site’s eruv, few could have be­grudged him a warm­ing tip­ple. His bot­tles of the peaty 13-year-old High­land Park and sherry-in­fused Aber­lour 16-year-old malt were quickly drained.

As the event ended on Mon­day lunchtime, Mr Pam and co-chair Adele Silk re­flected on the cul­mi­na­tion of months of hard work. “This has grown out of a wish for an out­door event,” Ms Silk said. “There’s a lot of po­ten­tial and a lot of dif­fer­ent ar­eas that we are reach­ing.”

“Ev­ery per­son here has a value,” Mr Pam added. “Ev­ery­one gives their time to make it work. This is the most in­no­va­tive thing in the Jewish com­mu­nity.”

PHOTO: JONATHAN HUNTER

Some of the young Lim­mud-go­ers mak­ing hay while the sun (briefly) shines. Be­low in­set, event co-chairs Jon Pam and Adele Silk

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