Embracing a diverse community — all together again

Some of the dedicated volunteers who made Limmud 2022 a success

Reflecting on Limmud Cape Town 2022, an inclusive Jewish-focused conference

By Sue Chalom

A highlight of the Jewish cultural calendar, Limmud Cape Town, was held in person for the first time in three years. 

“We took a risk going ahead with an in-person conference, not knowing whether people would feel comfortable to gather together again. But the risk paid off as people revelled in one another’s company, in learning, in engaging and in celebrating Jewish life,” Sarit Swisa, the national chair of Limmud SA states. As Brian Kantor, who speaks to packed audiences at Limmud every year, so eloquently articulated to me, whilst waiting in line for our Shabbat dinner, “Limmud is a place where all Jews are welcomed and accepted, regardless of their religious affiliation.” 

Held at the UCT Graduate School of Business, and organised by co-chairs Gill Saks and Gabriella Saven, this annual event is made possible through generous sponsorship and the tireless efforts of those who volunteer behind the scenes. According to self-proclaimed ‘Limmud addict’ Toby Shenker, who headed up the volunteering team again this year, “[I am] astounded by the innumerable gifts which this epic ‘roadshow’ brings to our Jewish community.” 

And what an array of intellectual gifts to open with 18 international speakers, over 44 local speakers, and 100 sessions in three days. “The diversity and choice of presentations was very broad, and the only challenge, as always, was trying to decide which presentation to attend,” exclaims well-known writer Gus Silber. “The sessions I attended, particularly Jonathan Ancer’s erudite, moving, and entertaining look at Mensches in the Trenches, were mind-opening and illuminating in the true spirit of Limmud.” Silber presented on South African Jewish photographers and their influence on our society, and he reflects, “It is such a pleasure to be part of the experience from the other side of the podium. Limmud audiences are highly engaged and interested, and of course they are discerning too.” 

But it is so much more than your average conference, with drumming, yoga, cartoon workshops, wine tasting, a quiz, live music and programmes for young Limmudniks on offer. As Anita Shapiro, head of International Presenter Care, explains, “Sometimes a session can surprise you. You go with a certain expectation and then popular-held facts are debunked. This is the Limmud way to be exposed to people who don’t have the same opinions that you do.” 

“I really enjoyed meeting like-minded people in the community, with points of view I didn’t expect and may have underestimated,” Nathan Eisen confesses after his first conference attendance. Kelsey Buchalter, another first-time Limmudnik, who participated and presented, emphatically says, “I encourage others to come to such an event to experience what ‘community’ feels like, to meet and chat with new people, and to learn!”

Sue Chalom is a long-time writer and Limmudnik, who headed up the programming committee this year.

• Published in the October 2022 Digital Edition – Click here to read it.

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