Over Martin Luther King weekend, 650 Jews gathers in a hotel in upstate New York to learn Torah, celebrate Shabbat and build a sense of community.
Built on the model of British Limmud, an amazing celebration of Jewish learning that had CAJE as a point of origin, but that grew in completely different directions. British Limmud made a turn from teaching to learning, and then it began to grow. It is now a 2000 person intergenerational pluralistic gathering with real orthodox participation and with all ages participating actively, and with the leadership being for the most part in its late twenties.
Now, a group of lay people in New York, inspired by the British model, have added another event to the national Jewish calendar. For those of us connected to other learning events in North America a few small things were revolutionary. Cookies and Coffee (etc) were served all day. The food was pretty good. It had a bar as an adult hang out at night. Sessions were diverse, high quality and the central focus. There was no theme, no tracking, no programmatic organization, just good people teaching excited learners. The administration was supportive and did not blame participants. As a presenter, it was easy to solve problems and things were flexible.
What’s kind of amazing—what is worth talking about—is that at a time when Jewish education somehow feels smaller, somehow feels that we are on the losing side, a group of volunteers in New York have once again made magic, once again enriched us with a vision of the possible (and a great new conference to consider).