Haifa, the city so secular that public buses run as usual there on Shabbat, will this week host its first-ever festival of Jewish learning and culture under the auspices of the global Limmud movement.
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The six-and-a-half hour event, to be held Tuesday at the Beit Rotenberg Center on the Carmel, will feature Jewish study classes, lectures, musical performances, a film and Bible contest.
Altogether, more than 25 presenters are expected to participate in this kick-off event in Israel’s “Red City” – a stronghold of the country’s Labor movement and powerful unions.
“Haifa is actually much more diverse a city than it seems on the outside,” said Golan Ben-Chorin, a Reform rabbi and educator who is cochair and cofounder of Limmud Haifa.
“We now have four liberal congregations in Haifa, among them one of the oldest Reform and one of the oldest Conservative congregations in Israel. Among the Orthodox, there are modern Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox and those in between, and among the secular, there is a strong Jewish renewal movement in recent years.”
Cofounder of The Haifa Forum for Interfaith Cooperation, Ben-Chorin designed and directs a semester in rabbinic training at the Leo Baeck College in London.
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 new Tel Aviv Limmud group is planning to host a big event in the country’s cultural and commercial capital this coming May.
Among the presenters at the Haifa launch of Limmud will be MK Elazar Stern (Hatnuah), who will focus his talk on the struggles of converts in Israel.
Other highlights of the event, said Ben-Chorin, include a presentation on the history of the world through wine, and a session on how talmudic thinking informs town planning.
The event will be broadcast live to another Limmud group convening at the same time in Boston, Haifa’s twin city.
Ben-Chorin said he had no idea how many participants would show up, “but if we have 75 people I’ll feel it was worth it.” He said the plan was to turn the learning and cultural event into an annual happening in Haifa.
Since its kick-off conference in the United Kingdom 34 years ago, Limmud has sponsored events in 40 countries on six different continents.