(Jerusalem) Limmud, the international network of Jewish learning communities, will be awarded the Jerusalem Unity Prize in the Diaspora category on Unity Day, June 7, 2017. President of Israel Reuven Rivlin will bestow the award in Jerusalem, which recognises Limmud’s global success in bringing Jews together. The prize is a joint initiative between Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Gesher and the families of Eyal Ifrach, Gil-ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel z”l.
“We are grateful for this fabulous honor,” said Limmud Chair David Hoffman. “Limmud promotes Jewish unity by offering an inclusive cross-communal space for Jews of all ages and backgrounds, to meet, learn, volunteer and build community. Unity is about celebrating our diversity while working together to build community and create a dynamic Jewish future. This is what Limmud does.”
Founded in the United Kingdom in 1980, Limmud today has spread to 84 communities in 44 countries on six continents. In 2016, Limmud’s 4,000 volunteers produced 74 Jewish learning festivals and events around the world, which drew over 40,000 people.
Limmud South Africa takes place across three cities during the month of August, drawing over 2000 participants. It is considered one of the success stories of World Limmud. Adina Roth, Limmud SA National chair said, ‘When Limmud SA started in 2007, we hoped to emulate the world-class conferences in England and make Limmud SA our own with a unique South African, Jewish flavour. However what we did not anticipate was that the Limmud volunteer culture would develop a community of volunteers and leaders who take responsibility and communal spearhead initiatives throughout the year. It is very gratifying to see our Limmud volunteers assume positions in Jewish public office become thought leaders and go on to develop other start-ups in the Jewish community and more broadly in the South African community. Eleven years on, we consider Limmud SA’s volunteer culture to be a greenhouse that grows and nurtures Jewish leadership in South Africa. We have become much more than an annual conference.’
Limmud’s cross communal nature both inspires and encourages unity. In fact, a core tenet of Limmud is that everybody is an equal member of the community, whether layperson or rabbi, communal leader or educator, adult or child. Limmud’s values stipulate that it is a community of learning, recognizing that far more can be achieved together than individually. Everyone can contribute and all are responsible for one another and the communities that are created.
“Today, when deep schisms separate Jews – politically, religiously, within communities and between the Diaspora and Israel – the Limmud model and message is more necessary than ever,” stated Limmud Board Member and Head of Strategic Development David Bilchitz, who is based in South Africa. “Building and sustaining unity takes hard work and a constant effort to understand and bridge our differences. Owing to Limmud’s shared values, Limmud offers a platform to explore, understand and discuss differences, emphasizing common denominators and what we can learn from each other. It is thus a beacon of light in building the future of community through respect and accepting diverse Jewish identities.”
Apart from its powerful work in the diaspora, Limmud has been embraced by thousands of Israelis, where nine Limmud communities bring together people across the religious spectrum and from all ethnic origins – Ashkenazim, Sephardim, immigrants from the Former Soviet Union, and many others. Limmud in Israel has been a focal point for new friendships and cross-communal leadership teams.
The Jerusalem Unity Prize and Unity Day recognize individuals, organisations, and initiatives in Israel and throughout the Jewish world which advance mutual respect among the Jewish people.
“Limmud has shown that in an increasingly polarized world we are strongest when we work together,” said Limmud Chief Executive Eli Ovits. “As one people, across Israel and the Diaspora, hand in hand with all denominations and parts of society – unity becomes reality.”
“This is the relevance of Limmud’s message and approach. We plan to build upon Limmud’s success in future years and ensure it is able to touch all Jews who want a connection with their Jewishness. We thank our current partners for helping us realize this vision. Demand for Limmud increases yearly and Limmud is calling for individuals, organizations and foundations to support local groups as well as our global efforts and help sustain our success in bringing unity and celebrating the vibrancy and richness of being Jewish today.”