Limmudfest New Orleans begins in earnest this evening, Fri., March 7 with most activities concentrated on the Temple Sinai campus tonight and Saturday. All Sunday activities will be held at the Lavin Bernick Center at Tulane University.
New Orleans is the smallest city in the world to host a Limmud conference and has done so since its inception here four years ago.
At the time, conference chair Gail Chalew was one of several involved community members including then Congregation Beth Israel’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Uri Topolosky, who advocated for a Limmud conference to be held in the city that was still recovering from the ill effects of flooding associated with Hurricane Katrina.
Clive Lawton, the most recognized founder of the Limmud conference movement will be back in New Orleans to take part in this year’s conference, just as he has done in the previous two Limmud conferences.
Limmudfest New Orleans continues the spirit of pluralistic cooperation advanced in the previous conferences held in 2010 and 2012. All registration can be conducted over the website. In person registration will open and close just prior to the inception of Shabbat on Friday evening and reopen on Sunday morning for the final day’s activities.
The Jewish learning conference is slated to concentrate on nine different tracks of interest including Arts and Culture, Contemporary Jewish Life, Family, History, Israel, Social Justice, Southern Jewish Life, Spirituality and Text and Thought.
Pre-registered attendees will gather at Temple Sinai’s campus and choose from three different religious services (Orthodox, Conservative and Reform) on Friday evening and Saturday mornings. In solidarity with Limmudfest New Orleans, Touro Synagogue has announced it will hold a joint service Uptown at Limmudfest for members of the Reform community and will additionally hold its regular weekly Torah study class led by lay leaders on Saturday afternoon.
For those who prefer a more secular form of observance, a Shabbat nature walk will be conducted on Saturday morning during the period when other religious services will be held. The walk will be conducted by noted environmentalist and activist Nili Simhai of the Teva Learning Alliance.
Kosher food by Andy Adelman is being supervised by Rabbi David Polsky, who is associated with the Louisiana Kashrut Committee. Friday night and Saturday afternoon meals will be complimented by snacks throughout the days on Saturday and Sunday.
Lawton is only one of several well-known speakers who will lead hour-long sessions on a variety of well-researched topics. Local rabbis Mendel Ceitlin (Chabad Center of Metairie), Ed Paul Cohn (Temple Sinai), Ethan Linden (Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation) and Robert Loewy (Congregation Gates of Prayer) will take part as well as incoming Beth Israel Rabbi Gabriel Greenberg and Stephen Silberman of Mobile, AL.
In some cases sessions will allow attendees to take part in crafts or participate in group discussions.
“Yiddishe Shtunde,” a two-act original play by Ellliott Raisen will bring the conference to a close in the Kendall Cram Room of the Lavin Bernick Center. Directed by actor and director David Kaplinsky, the play will recall a Yiddish radio program broadcast 75 years ago over station “W-Woe is Me.”
The one-hour musical review will feature several comedy bits in addition to several klezmer music pieces. Among the show stars are Kaplinsky, his father Mark Kaplinsky, Raisen, local chaunteuse Suzaune Yee McKamey, local religious school instructor Hannah Mellman and CCJN editor Alan Smason as the program’s announcer.