Im­pres­sions of a rookie: turn up late and dance

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - SI­MON ROUND

I’M A Lim­mud late­comer. For years, I’ve heard sto­ries of stim­u­lat­ing ses­sions, of bands jam­ming in the bar and late-night discos at this Jewish ed­u­ca­tional ex­trav­a­ganza which at­tracted thou­sands to the windswept cam­pus of War­wick Univer­sity.

Now fi­nally I was here — not at War­wick but at the equally windswept plat­form of Birm­ing­ham In­ter­na­tional sta­tion from where I wan­dered through a de­serted NEC to­wards Lim­mud’s new home in the rather plusher sur­round­ings of the Birm­ing­ham Hil­ton Metropole

So what’s it like? For those of you who haven’t yet made it, Lim­mud is a cross be­tween an Open Univer­sity sum­mer camp, a Catskills re­sort and the world’s big­gest Jewish wed­ding.

By all ac­counts, the at­mos­phere is fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent here at the Hil­ton than at War­wick. With ev­ery ses­sion un­der one roof there is a lot less weather than Lim­mud veter­ans are used to for a start — and the car­pets are more swirly too.

As a con­fer­ence new­bie, sev­eral things im­me­di­ately struck me. The first was the num­ber of lan­guages and di­alects rep­re­sented here — Brum­mie is the only one I have yet to hear.

The sec­ond was the way that an in­ter­na­tional ho­tel in the Mid­lands was now ap­par­ently be­ing run by a very smi­ley bunch of Jewish vol­un­teers. And never be­fore had I seen quite this much salmon be­ing eaten

in a din­ing room the size of a foot­ball pitch.

And then there are the ses­sions them­selves which cover ev­ery­thing from com­bat­ing ex­trem­ism to com­edy im­prov.

Again, as a new­comer I have had to learn quickly about the tra­di­tions. The first and most im­por­tant seems to be that one should never ar­rive be­fore the start of a ses­sion. The key is to ar­rive 10 min­utes late, dis­turb ev­ery­one who is al­ready there and then com­plain that the speaker is mum­bling.

An­other cus­tom sur­rounds ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sions. It seems you don’t ac­tu­ally ask a ques­tion — what you do is make a long speech. There are op­eras that are shorter than some of the “ques­tions” I have sat through here.

And, of course, there is the ul­ti­mate Lim­mud ob­ses­sion — find­ing a wifi pass­word which works.

How­ever, it is hard to imag­ine a friend­lier place. I thought I would know a few peo­ple be­yond my col­leagues at the Board of Deputies but I have met rel­a­tives, ex-col­leagues, a friend from univer­sity 30 years ago and the chap who used to sit in front of me at Chelsea in the ’90s.

And yes there are bands jam­ming in the bar. In fact, as I write, there is a choir practising and chil­dren weav­ing be­tween the chairs. And I popped into the Reb­bet­zins Disco last night where ev­ery­one from teenagers to pen­sion­ers were danc­ing into the small hours.

This was my first Lim­mud but I’m sure it won’t be my last. That’s af­ter I’ve spent the next couple of weeks re­cov­er­ing in a dark­ened room.

Si­mon Round is the Board of Deputies com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer

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