Limmud NY filled the Nevele Grande in the Catskills with about 1,000 people for their annual study event during the long Martin Luther King, Jr weekend. Limmud means “study” in Hebrew. There were over 350 study sessions, workshops and films over the four days. There was a camp for the kids. Many different style minyans were held and there was a shuk selling books and Judaica, also many organizations looking for volunteers and distributing information.
The participants came mostly from the North East of the US but there was a sizable number of Brits, Canadians (of course) and lots of Californians, and some Israelis. All ages came, there were many families with children, many of high school and university students too.
It was an incredible marathon with so many choices and activities, and so many interesting people to meet. Really wonderful. There were many performers including musicians, comics, and a one-man play. Events started and 7:30 am and ended at 2 or 3 am…It was sometimes difficult to choose exactly what to attend. My friend told me the best joke of the event:
How do you tell the neurotic from the psychotic at an event like this? The neurotics do not sleep and the psychotics don’t go to the bathroom.
The sessions we attended had real variety, intellect and depth, once I stumbled into a “new age” class and left quickly- not my cup of tea at all, but the others in the room were happy…very happy with it. I have a limited appetite for Kabbalah, or demons and devils as well…it is the “Litvak” in me that just cannot listen to this for very long but I did go to a session about all of this stuff. I did enjoy the sessions on the Mussar movement. There was something for everyone.
I attended a few discussions which were a true pleasure. People of differing opinions discussing serious topics with respect and humor, that is without the bile and without monsterizing the other’s opinions as we usually hear in so-called “discussions” the media.
One was “Who Wrote the Torah- a Conversation on Bible Scholarship and Faith” with Everett Fox, Nigel Savage, Rachel Berkovits, and Danial Goldfarb. Excellent.
There were many films, and an extraordinary session with slides on the history, false Soviet propaganda and reality of Birobijan, the soviet “Jewish” state, by a person who was born there. The slides were incredible: a soviet brochure with photos of palm trees (!) in Siberia, moving stories of the people who came in hope and mostly experienced tragic ends.
Alicia Svigals, the great Klezmer fiddler not only played on Sunday night for a dancing, happy crowd which included dancing children (who the adults lifted up in chairs during the dancing) and dancing adults in the Nevele nightclub called the “Stardust Room”. I love these Catskills- this evening was timeless! The next day, Alicia lead a session on the history of Klezmer music, played some excerpts and also explained why so many “Jewish” names come from instruments such as Feidler, and Zimbalist etc. It was all fun.
We had hoped to get to the indoor pool and to take a freezing walk in the snowy woods, but we were just too busy. I did see about thirty Canada Geese fly in and land on the half-frozen lake honking loudly and we had a great view of the mountains from our window…
My best and most extraordinary moment: meeting the warm, happy woman I would never have expected to be at Limmud. We had not seen each other since she was a teen about 25 years ago. She had lived with our family for a short time. It must be the real reason I was meant to be there.
One more note: Limmud takes place in many locations around the world, and will be at the Nevele next year. If you look up the Nevele Grande on the net you will see horrible reviews which have no validity at all. I do not know who those writers are or what their motivation was but I can tell you that what they wrote is completely untrue. The Nevele is clean, perfectly pleasant and the staff was helpful and always positive.