In New York, the annual tradition is to go for Chinese food on Christmas Day. It may have begun as Chinese restaurants were likely the only places open on the holiday.
In the UK, there’s a new tradition being observed by Jews over the traditional winter break.
Limmud.org is the UK site for the Limmud International, which organizes Jewish cultural and learning experiences in countries around the world. Limmud is Hebrew, “to learn.”
Limmud began in the UK some 25 years go, and now it is replicated in Jewish communities around the world, from Los Angeles to Istanbul, Argentina to the Baltics and in Israel. Currently 26 events are on the international calendar and interactive map here.
Pioneer Sephardic genealogist Jeff Malka recently spoke at Limmud Turkey in November, and UK Jewish genealogist Laurence Harris will speak at the UK’s December event.
This year, the UK version takes place from December 27-31 at the University of Warwick, with some major international and local names in attendance. There are top-ranked Jewish educators who attract ordinary people who want to learn something new and experience the communal learning model.
According to the website:
Every year Limmud Conference is enriched by the cream of the Jewish world. Many of our presenters are leaders in their field – scholars, artists, musicians, writers politicians, activists, teachers, journalists. Many simply love their subject. They all have something engaging to say, insights to offer and Jewish treasures to give you to take home.
Speakers and participants rub shoulders in a very democratic fashion. Everyone stays in university dorms and name tags bear only names, no titles. People eat together in the cafeteria (kosher, of course) and bus their own trays afterward.
During the day, participants listen to academics, rabbis, various experts all talking about Jewish culture and religion and many related topics. It is a family event, including sessions for children as well as parent-child study sessions, along with Jewish music and dancing.
Many participants and speakers are not academics. What they do is exchange ideas and learning. And the observance level runs from cultural Jews to those who are Orthodox.
The Guardian’s article on Limmud 2008, attended by some 2,000, is here.
This year’s line up of speakers includes:
–Hephzibah Anderson – Journalist/author.
–Michael J. Broyde – Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia) law professor, Law and Religion Program director.
—Michelle Citrin – Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and YouTube sensation
–Sergio DellaPergola – Hebrew University demographics professor, Jewish population specialist.
–Hagai Elad – Director, Association of Civil Rights in Israel
–Louise Ellman – Labour MP; Labour Friends of Israel vice chair.
–Konstanty Gebert – Polish journalist; Jewish intellectual, founder/former editor, Midrasz magazine
–Yehuda Henkin – Author, four volumes of responsa
–Richard Joel – Yeshiva University president, Jewish education teacher and expert.
–Jack Kagan – Holocaust survivor who fought with Bielski brothers.
–Judy Klitsner – Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies senior faculty member/author.
–Ofek Meir – Haifa Leo Baeck Center rabbi, elementary school principal.
–Michael Melchior – Social/environmental activist, former minister/Member of Knesset, Chief Rabbi of Norway.
–Kobi Oz – Israeli band Teapacks former lead singer, with new band, Mizmorei Nevuchim.
–Denise Phillips – Chef, cooking teacher; author, four Jewish cookbooks.
–David Saperstein – New York Reform Action Center director, most influential US rabbi (Newsweek).
–Chaim Seidler-Feller – UCLA Hillel director, American Jewish University Talmud/kabbalah lecturer.
There is an additional long list of additional presenters including authors, filmmakers, newspaper editors, Reform/Conservative Movement leaders, hip-hop artists, Sephardic musicians, folklorists, terrorism experts, yeshiva directors, actors, performers, poets, kabbalah experts, Polish experts, rock singers, rabbis, professors, philosophers, magazine editors, college principals, anthropologists, lawyers, Indian/Ethiopian experts, video project directors, Holocaust center directors and many more.
Wherever you live, there’s a Limmud. If there isn’t, why not help start one? And if you’re interested, see what you can do about putting family history research on the program to reach a wider audience.