Having been to a great many Limmud events in the UK, Israel and Argentina, I was delighted to attend Limmud Odessa earlier this month both for the event itself and also to be in this city rich with Jewish history and culture. I was not disappointed by either. In fact I can honestly say that Limmud Odessa was nothing short of a pilgrimage for me.
A few days ago I got sent a link to a 1951 promotional movie about Israel made by Air France. Check it out. http://www.road90.com/watch.php?id=V8B8RekAJJ It is definitely worth seeing. It is really great experience to see all those images of 60 years ago.
What excites me the most about Limmud Negev, is the people that I have met throughout the process. I realize it sounds quite obvious. You start a new project and you meet new people. You get excited. No news here at all.
But something about how the group formed, and the different personalities, and our discussions taught me a lot about myself.
Here is an example. As we built the program a few questions arose, and I was surprised to learn how important choice was to me, while for others it resembled chaos. I can see how free choice can lead to some level of unexpected results. But on the other hand restricting choice felt like an abuse of power to me.
Usually I don’t tell jokes. I leave that to my two sons, who inherited that skill from their father. When asked to share a joke at my father-in-law's 60th birthday party, I had to drink three or four glasses of wine first to get past my inhibitions. This is a weakness I admit to willingly. However, as I sit here and reflect on the Shabbat experience I just had, two lines which could easily be openings for Jewish jokes come to mind: “Four rabbis decide to celebrate Shabbat together, one Reform, one Conservative, one Orthodox and one Reconstructionist…” or “what do you get when Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Reform rabbis decide to pray together?”
An Education that Engages
Informal Jewish education intensely engages and even co-opts participants and makes them feel positive about being involved. Because of its focus on the individual and on issues that are real to him/her, informal Jewish education is often described as "fun," "joyful," or "enjoyable." This should not be taken as a sign of frivolity or lack of seriousness. As Erikson and others have taught us, identity is in part a sense of positive feelings about a group or a frame of reference; and positive feelings about a Jewish experience play an important role in the development of Jewish identity. Indeed, there are those who say that we need such experiences because Jewish identity development is so often complicated by a plethora of negative associations. Research on informal Jewish education points to the high degree of participant satisfaction as compared with other spheres of Jewish life.
In Israel One Can Cease Being a Jew
My father was a Jew of great depth, and an atheist. He dedicated his life to the Jewish People, and insisted on speaking Hebrew to me. One morning he bid me farewell: "Shalom." I asked, "Abba, where are you going?" He answered, "I am not leaving. You are leaving." When I asked, "Where am I going," he replied, "You are a young Jew, and we have a Jewish state. Shalom."