Big­ger and bet­ter

Record num­bers at this year’s Lim­mud — at new ho­tel venue.

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY SI­MON ROCKER

THE LIM­MUD con­fer­ence swapped its usual cam­pus venue for the more up­mar­ket set­ting of a ho­tel — and at­tracted record crowds.

While some die-hard del­e­gates said they missed the univer­sity feel, most of the 2,750 in­sisted they en­joyed the im­proved fa­cil­i­ties and more com­fort­able rooms.

The at­ten­dees — 100 more than the pre­vi­ous high­est num­ber — de­scended on Birm­ing­ham’s Hil­ton Metropole from more than 40 coun­tries.

For the first time in years, the adult pro­gramme was con­fined to a sin­gle build­ing, al­though five nearby ho­tels were booked to ac­com­mo­date the sheer weight of num­bers. Ses­sions for teenagers and Lim­mud In­ter­na­tional took place in the nearby Na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre.

“I’m pleas­antly sur­prised,” said for­mer UJIA chief ex­ec­u­tive Ben Leon, who met his wife Char­lotte at Lim­mud 18 years ago. “I was ex­pect­ing that not be­ing on a cam­pus, it would lack a Lim­mud qual­ity, a stu­dent-aca­demic en­vi­ron­ment. But I’ve heard pos­i­tive com­ments about the rooms, the food.”

For those with mo­bil­ity dif­fi­cul­ties, the com­pact­ness of the venue was a great im­prove­ment. “I came be­cause it’s all in­doors,” said Doris Moritz, of Cardiff, one of a hand­ful Lim­mud­niks in their 90s. “I hadn’t been for years be­cause there was a lot of walk­ing out­doors. I’m thor­oughly en­joy­ing it.” But some found mov­ing through the cor­ri­dors be­tween ses­sions op­pres­sive. “It feels like you are tooth­paste be­ing squeezed out of the tube,” said Rose­mary Ham­burger from Manch­ester. Ju­lian Landy, from Cam­bridge, said he missed be­ing able to chat to peo­ple on the way to ses­sions at War­wick Univer­sity, venue for the pre­vi­ous eight years. It was more a case of “el­bow­ing than shmooz­ing”, he said.

In­com­ing chair­man of the over­all Lim­mud or­gan­i­sa­tion, David Hoff­man, be­lieved the con­fer­ence team had got “on top of the site and made sure it’s run smoothly.”

Vol­un­teers moved quickly to tackle teething trou­bles and, af­ter the may­hem of over­long lunchtime queues on Mon­day, ap­peared to have al­le­vi­ated the prob­lem the day af­ter.

De­spite the swelling num­bers, some won­dered if the cost of the event might de­ter prospec­tive par­tic­i­pants. It cost a fam­ily of four around £1,270 with an early book­ing dis­count. But one fa­ther said it was good value and that he would be happy to pay “50 per cent more”.

Or­gan­is­ers tried to keep the price rise in mov­ing venue to a min­i­mum and a pot of £16,000 for bur­saries helped 100 peo­ple to at­tend.

More than 500 pre­sen­ters de­liv­ered around 1,000 ses­sions on cul­ture, pol­i­tics, spir­i­tu­al­ity, the Bible, and Jewish law .“We turned down 200 ses­sions ,” said rab­binic stu­dent Deb­o­rah Blausten, cochair­man of the pro­gram­ming team.

While top names, such as his­to­rian Pro­fes­sor Deb­o­rah Lips tadt, proved pop­u­lar, no amount of plan­ning could an­tic­i­pate an un­ex­pected draw. A ses­sion by Linda Turner, di­rec­tor of Mavar, an or­gan­i­sa­tion which helps Charedim who want to leave their com­mu­nity, had the au­di­ence spilling out of the room .“I had to tell peo­ple to stop go­ing ,” said con­fer­ence cochair­man Michael Gladstone.

‘I hadn’t been for years — I’m thor­oughly en­joy­ing it’

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