With each passing year, Jenn Shuldiner becomes more and more involved with Limmud Toronto, an annual festival of Jewish learning.
Two years ago, she volunteered with the programming team. She found the experience so rewarding that last year, she co-chaired the team, and this year, she’s co-chairing the entire festival.
Limmud is a one-day event that features speakers discussing all aspects of Judaism. Limmud started in London in 1980 and first came to Toronto in 2004. Shuldiner said she expects over 500 people to attend this year’s event, which will take place on Nov. 10 at the Bora Laskin Law Library.
Shuldiner said she is excited to be a part of a program that combines so many areas of Jewish interest.
“Limmud is an amazing day that brings people together from the different silos of the Jewish community. And it’s an incredibly fun day and it’s an opportunity that only happens through Limmud, and being able to be part of that program and try every year to make it a bit better and reach more people is what keeps me being involved with it,” Shuldiner said.
Shuldiner believes that’s the secret to Limmud’s continued success: it exposes people to thinkers and ideas that are outside of their usual bubbles, and allows them to see those ideas interacting in new and exciting ways. Whatever the participants are interested in – history, meditation, kabbalah, the environment – there’s probably a speaker on that topic.
For example, Shuldiner noted that one of the panels will include rabbis from the modern Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements commenting on passages from the Bible. “That’s not something you get the opportunity to listen to very often. So there’s cross-denominational talking, just everyone coming together, because they want to learn and they’re excited about Judaism,” she said.
Mira Kates Rose is the other co-chair of Limmud Toronto. She first attended Limmud in New York a few years ago. Last year, she volunteered for the Toronto festival and then represented the city at the Limmud International Festival in the United Kingdom in December, which she described as a “leadership training experience to people who want to help develop Limmud-style learning opportunities in their hometown.”
One of the presenters that Kates Rose is most excited about is Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, who also presented at last year’s festival. Kates Rose said Rabbi Moskowitz speaks about allyship as spiritual practice and advocacy for LGBTQ people in the Orthodox community.
“His session has been very much text-based, and speaking to traditional ways, traditional modes of Jewish work,” she said, “but in a way that I think really speaks to his own values, and also Limmud values, of how do you create a discussion between different voices, different sources, that is universally respectful and ambitious and encouraging?”
Kates Rose said the festival actually had to narrow the list of presenters this year to around 60, from 90 or so last year. Even so, this year’s lineup boasts a diverse list of local and visiting presenters covering all kinds of topics.
Among its keynote speakers are: Yair Rosenberg, senior writer for Tablet Magazine; Haroon Moghul, a Pakistani-American academic who is the fellow in Jewish-Muslim relations at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America; Yvonne Green, a London-born poet of Jewish-Uzbek heritage; as well as Helena Czernek and Aleksander Prugar, the founders of MI POLIN, the first Judaica brand created and manufactured in Poland since the Second World War.