Limmud, the city’s most eclectic day of Jewish learning, is back for its third consecutive year.
The event, which attracted 650 attendees last year, offers more than 80 sessions on diverse topics. This year, the day of learning will be held March 19 at St. Andrews Conference Centre, 150 King Street W.
Among the presenters at Limmud 2017 are Barry Deutsch, the creator of the Hereville graphic novels about a “troll-fighting, 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl”; Elisa Hategan, a former neo-Nazi, and Bat Sheva Marcus, president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and founder of a women’s sexual health clinic.
“We live in an incredibly rich Jewish community, where if you wanted to do Jewish learning, there is the opportunity to do that in some shape or form every day of the week,” said Joanna Sasson, festival chair.
“Yet, when you look at Limmud’s program, many, many of the offerings and sessions are not the kinds of things that you would find taking place in the community year-round.”
A presentation by Ve’ahavta’s Danny Richmond entitled “Jewish Indigenous Conversation” is part of a group of lectures called Next Gen track, as is a discussion by three university students on Israel and Zionism.
Limmud received a grant from the Covenant Foundation to bring in Danny Siegel, a well-known poet and author who will be speaking on “Thirty-six Ways to Change the World Big Time with Little Effort and Money.”
The event is designed to appeal to all members of the Jewish community, regardless of background or affiliation, said Sasson.
“We really strive to attract from the depth and the breadth of the Jewish community and create this opportunity for respectful dialogue among all Jews,” she said.
Sasson said when she is deciding which sessions she will personally attend at Limmud, she picks a mix of topics she knows she is interested in as well as something “a little out of the box.”
“One of the things Limmud hopefully does is make you think about your Judaism,” she said. “Not necessarily with the goal of changing your point of view, but making you think and consider things that normally you wouldn’t. Here you have this opportunity to hear something different than you normally would, to engage in a conversation that you normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to do.”
Many of the sessions touch on contemporary issues. An especially relevant one is a panel featuring a Muslim, a Christian and a Jew in “open and honest discussion.” Another features financier turned entrepreneur Andrew Dale discussing “Don’t Call Me Orthodox: Perspectives from a Gay Ba’al Tshuvah.”
The program also offers sessions for children aged two to 12, while their parents are attending presentations.
Limmud began in England in 1980, where it has evolved into a week-long event of learning. About 80 communities around the world host Limmud programs, which are entirely planned and run by volunteers.
Limmud was first held in Toronto in 2004, but interest flagged after a few years. It was revived in 2015 by a group of volunteers who planned a new program. The dream is for Limmud Toronto to become a weekend-long event, but it will still take a few years before that can be achieved, Sasson said.
Limmud opens this year with a sing-along showing of the movie Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat on March 16 at Innis Town Hall, on the University of Toronto’s downtown campus.
Visit www.Limmud.ca for tickets and a complete schedule.