Since its kick-off conference in the United Kingdom 33 years ago, Limmud has spread far and wide, sponsoring Jewish learning and cultural events in 65 diverse communities located in 34 countries on six different continents.
Ironically, though, this global Jewish movement has somehow managed to bypass the first Hebrew city.
Not for much longer. If all goes as planned, Tel Aviv will hold its first Limmud event in little over a year from now, the overall plan approved this week at a parlor meeting of Limmud enthusiasts in Israel’s cultural and commercial capital.
As described by Tal Grunspan, the 32-year-old born-and-bred Tel Avivian heading the event steering committee, the plan is to hold a day-and-a-half conference at the end of February 2015 that would start on Thursday morning and conclude Friday afternoon. His rather ambitious target is to bring 800 participants to the event, including 150 presenters for roughly 200 different sessions. Once Shabbat kicks in, overseas visitors, who, in his estimation, will account for about a quarter of the participants, will be invited to spend the weekend couch surfing with local families.
“We’re planning on having many sessions in English as well,” he said, “because Tel Aviv has become such an international city.”
Over the years, Limmud groups have been formed in Israel in the Galilee and Arava regions, in Be’er Sheva, Modi’in and Jerusalem. There is also a special Israeli Limmud group that caters to immigrants from the former Soviet Union. A Lag b’Omer event organized by the Jerusalem Limmud group last year attracted 500 participants, and another Limmud event held in the capital specifically for immigrants from the former Soviet Union last November drew a crowd of 800.
Grunspan, a key activist in the social protest movement of the summer of 2011, previously served as an adviser to Nitzan Horowitz, the Knesset member from the left-wing Meretz Party who lost his recent bid to become mayor of Tel Aviv. His introduction to Limmud came in 2005, when he was working as a Jewish Agency envoy to a summer camp in England, where he befriended a fellow counselor who was a longtime enthusiast. In 2011, while participating in an Israeli delegation to London, Grunspan met Clive Lawton, one of Limmud’s founders, and asked for his assistance in creating a Tel Aviv group.
Having returned not long ago from the 2013 Limmud Conference in Coventry, England, Grunspan said he was determined to get the ball rolling. The Tel Aviv group, he said, now includes about 50 activists, half of whom were present at this week’s salon meeting.
“It’s a diverse group,” said Grunspan. “We have native-born Israelis, immigrants from different countries – most of whom had been active in Limmud in the places they came from – and even one Haredi guy. My biggest challenge today is getting some older people involved because most of these guys are pretty young.”
A title for next year’s big event? Here’s one they’ve been toying with: “Tel-Limmud.”
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