Ortho­dox par­tic­i­pa­tion? Don’t just count the rab­bis

Num­bers may have dipped, but they will re­cover, says one frum Lim­mud­nik

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY RAPHAEL ZARUM

I’VE BEEN go­ing to Lim­mud for over 20 years. My first time was a bit of a shock — such a range of peo­ple and ses­sions, such a pas­sion for learn­ing, such a joy at “do­ing Jewish”. I was hooked.

Lim­mud is a novel take on the Yarchei Kal­lah, an an­cient Jewish institution. It was a bi-an­nual study con­ven­tion for Jewish schol­ars in Baby­lon. In var­i­ous forms it has con­tin­ued to the present day.

With such a va­ri­ety of Jewish learn­ing, Lim­mud surely re­alises the aim of the Yarchei Kal­lah: to en­sure that, as the Midrash says, the To­rah “would never be for­got­ten by Jews and their de­scen­dants un­til the end of time”.

Lim­mud val­ues what really mat­ters to me — be­ing to­gether as a com­mu­nity, re­spect­ing dif­fer­ence, study­ing our great texts day and night, ar­gu­ing for the sake of heaven, learn­ing about our history and cul­ture, vol­un­teer­ing to help oth­ers, deep­en­ing our con­nec­tion to Is­rael, and fac­ing up to communal prob­lems such as de­cry­ing abu­sive poli­cies and peo­ple.

The buzz of all this is what brings me back year af­ter year.

The truth is that there have al­ways been plenty of great Ortho­dox rab­bis from around the world at Lim­mud, just not so many from the UK. This was due to wor­ries about “le­git­i­macy” and “shar­ing plat­forms”.

Over the years, how­ever, with the growth of Lim­mud, a bur­geon­ing Ortho­dox at­ten­dance, a sus­tained at­mos­phere of re­spect, and the re­al­i­sa­tion that peo­ple really are able to understand and judge re­li­gious dif­fer­ences for them­selves, things have changed. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis led the way in 2013, and many United Syn­a­gogue rab­bis came along too.

That’s why many peo­ple were sur­prised this year that so few US rab­bis were there. But to my mind it’s just a blip. I know many communal rab­bis, from all dif­fer­ent de­nom­i­na­tions, who find com­ing to Lim­mud dif­fi­cult. It can be a bus­man’s hol­i­day and it’s not cheap. Rab­bis need some down­time too, away from the crowds. Lim­mud or­gan­is­ers do make an ef­fort to ac­com­mo­date rab­bis, but I think more could be done.

Some, though, are com­mit­ted. My friend, Rabbi Dov Ka­plan of Hamp­stead Gar­den Sub­urb Syn­a­gogue says he feels “pro­fes­sion­ally ob­li­gated” to go where his con­gre­gants are. “Per­son­ally I find it ex­cit­ing sit­ting as a pupil. I plan to be back there next year,” he adds.

It is a shame that this is­sue is so rabbi-fo­cused. Ortho­dox communal lead­er­ship takes mul­ti­ple forms and is well-rep­re­sented at Lim­mud ev­ery year.

Fault-find­ers are also overly male­fo­cused. There are nu­mer­ous knowl­edge­able and in­spir­ing women who are lead­ers and ed­u­ca­tors in to­day’s United Syn­a­gogue com­mu­ni­ties.

In­deed, many were trained on the LSJS Susi Brad­field pro­gramme. And many gave ses­sions at this year’s Lim­mud, in­clud­ing Doreen Sa­muels (a US trus­tee), Mau­reen Kendler (an LSJS teach­ing Fel­low) and Nicky Gold­man (ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Lead), to name just a few. So let’s laud them and not al­ways fo­cus on count­ing men with rab­binic or­di­na­tion.

My fa­ther of­ten quotes the say­ing from Proverbs, Berov am hadrat melech. It means: “Amid a mul­ti­tude of peo­ple, the king is glo­ri­fied”. The Tal­mud ex­plains that the king is God and that a large Jewish gath­er­ing is holy be­cause it can hon­our the in­tegrity, joy and won­der bound up in God’s name. For me, that’s Lim­mud. Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum is the dean of Lon­don School of Jewish Stud­ies. More Lim­mud com­ment, p42

Crit­ics who say the ob­ser­vant wing

It­can­bea bus­man’s hol­i­day, and it’s not cheap.And rab­bis­doneed down­time

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.