Limmud never considered it could be exported to five places around the world – let alone 75. It is now in Jewish centres such as New York, Tel Aviv, Paris and Moscow, and more curiously Birobidzhan, Beijing, Bulgaria and Bogota.
Initially Limmud rejected having any role in activities outside of UK. However, once it became clear that Limmud was of global interest it refocused – often working with core partners such as Limmud FSU.
Limmud FSU, led by Chaim Chesler, Sandra Cahn, Matthew Bronfman and hundreds of local volunteers, has guided and found funding for the most remarkable gatherings of Russian-speaking Jews.
It was not an easy task in the complex and confusing world of Russian Jewry. While the initial agreement covered only within the former Soviet Union, Limmud FSU has since expanded to North America, Israel, Australia and now Europe.
Each Limmud group has its own interpretation of the principles of the movement. Limmud acts as an open-source community and the challenge is to guide groups through its principles.
No group, including Limmud conference here in the UK, is a perfect example of Limmud’s principles, but all are examples to one another of innovation and creativity – learning from each other.
Some of these groups are extremely purist, others more pragmatic.
Every group has leaders and participants in their 20s, is transformative of its community and contributes to leadership development, communal enrichment, community mobilisation and outreach.
The remarkable story of Limmud, mainly funded by participants, is not only British Jewry greatest export – it is now at the core of Jewish communities worldwide.
For Limmud FSU to create an event of more than 700 Russian speaking Jews in Berkshire is far beyond the expectations and visions of Limmud of 20 years ago.
It adds to the richness, vitality and challenges of the Limmud community.
With 300 Russian-speaking Jews from the UK attending the event, it clearly has a valuable place and role to play here in Britain in the years to come.
– Andrew Gilbert was founding chair of Limmud International