Ashley Jay, Educational Psychologist and South African Limmudnik, on the unique potential of Limmud as a model for learning
The model of Limmud shouldn’t be as successful as it is. Not in today’s rushed lifestyle. The average person gets the education they need to make the money they want. You get a matric, to get a degree, to get a job. Some of us will have to continue to upskill ourselves through continuous professional development requirements in our fields, but once again this is a means to an end.
Limmud does not fit this model. Learning at one’s own expense with no formal recognition of attendance, no measured performance and no finite goal. Why then can Limmud pull a crowd of hundreds of people to its annual conferences and have consistent attendance to its events throughout the year? I believe it is because unlike formal education, which requires testing to assess one’s knowledge base and is curriculum focused more than ‘self-focused’, Limmud gives us a holistic education. With sessions on every conceivable topic and a smorgasbord of presenters and presenting styles, it as if one is ushered into a room with a ‘learning buffet’ spread out in front of one. There are dishes that appeal to the intellect, the spiritual, the emotional, the religious and all are there to enhance one’s personal growth. And one almost always has room for seconds.
So now that the self has been satiated, what about your psyche? It has to transform. Ideas have to be re-thought, feelings unpacked and behaviours more understood. Even if it’s a little bit, that’s a lot. Once you gain more insight into yourself, your psyche instantly has some sort of a shift as well. It may be a life changing shift or it may be the smaller, more subtle kind, but no matter because one’s personal and psychical growth is not meant to compete with another’s. The dual is between the psyche and the world and when the psyche grows through insight, through ideas, through debate, the world is changed through thoughts, through feelings, through actions.
To feed the ‘self’ without the pressures of measurable outcome by an external source is almost freeing. The only measurement tool of learning success is you. How do you feel? How have your thoughts, feelings and perceptions been broadened? What does your internal landscape look like now? These questions and a million others are the only ‘assessment measures’ for this kind of learning. You are the learner, the teacher and the examiner. Or as Limmud would put it: every Jew is a student, any Jew can be a teacher.