LimmudFest 2021 offered attendants a welcome respite from COVID-19, providing learning opportunities on topics ranging from Jewish culture and sacred texts to Israeli politics and environmentalism. Family-friendly Shabbat services were on offer during the last weekend in August, as close to 200 people traveled to the retreat at Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, Ga. to take part in recreational and social activities, canoeing and kayaking on the lake, cooling off in the swimming pool, or exploring the beautiful campus on guided hikes.
Limmud Atlanta and Southeast is one of sixteen Limmud communities in the United States and Canada. Dedicated to bringing Jews from diverse backgrounds together, the all-volunteer organization presents programs intended to “break down barriers and build a more animated and vibrant Jewish future,” according to the comprehensive program booklet each participant received when they checked in for the weekend.
Atlanta resident Elaine Blumenthal, a long time Limmudnik, remembers participating in the retreats when they took place at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. She spoke with great enthusiasm about her Limmud experiences: “I think it’s one of the best things in our community. I participate year after year because I get a chance to see the whole Jewish community coming together. I like to see what a rich, warm, wonderful community we are.”
A member of the Limmud board, Blumenthal has enjoyed the great variety of things she has been able to do during the retreats.
“You can study all kinds of things from cooking to jewelry making,” the lifelong learner explained. “I still have a bracelet I made years ago.”
In addition to being long-time Limmudniks, Blumenthal and her husband, Dr. Jerry Blumenthal, are active members in the Atlanta Jewish community. Members of Conservative congregations Or Hadash and Ahavath Achim, and associate members of Reform congregation Temple Sinai, the Blumenthals are known for their advocacy on behalf of Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.
What was their highlight for this year’s Limmud? I wondered.
“The traditional Shabbat services. I loved sitting outside listening to Howie Slomka talk about the week’s parsha. It was about blessings and curses, and how often curses create blessings. Howie said when COVID struck and we were all separated, it felt like a curse. But then something called Zoom came along, which was a blessing because it provided a way for us all to be together,” Blumenthal said.
Slomka, who led the traditional Shabbat services, chaired this year’s event. He is president of Limmud Atlanta and Southeast, and in addition to leading services on Sunday afternoon, Slomka also blew the shofar, which is traditional during the Hebrew month of Elul. Parents brought their young children to the retreat to witness the sounds and sights of the High Holy Days.
One attendee, visiting from Dunwoody, commented how much she enjoyed being around people of all ages. “All the social distancing because of COVID has been isolating. I’ve missed being around people, especially children,” she said.
Parents enrolled their kids in camp for the weekend, which gave them the freedom to participate in sessions geared toward adults.
The diversity of the attendees was obvious, with a wide spectrum of religious and political beliefs. One session that drew a lot of participation was called “Arguments for the Sake of Heaven.”
Facilitated by Leslie Anderson, whose background is in psychology, it provided an opportunity to use Jewish texts and the long tradition of differing opinions and disagreements as a source of healing.
Referring to the polarization of Americans today, Anderson emphasized how important it is to be able to communicate with people without getting angry.
“Although we have different ways we worship, or disagree with someone’s politics, we are all made in the image of God,” she said. “When we disagree with someone, it’s important to keep that in mind.”
But Limmud doesn’t proselytize. Instead, its philosophy is aimed at creating a learning space for Jews to explore their connection to Jewish ideas and craft their own Jewish experience.
Oh, and the food’s not bad, either.
- Arlene Caplan Appelrouth
- Congregation Or Hadash
- Temple Sinai
- Ahavath Achim Synagogue
- jewish federation of greater atlanta
- Limmud Atlanta+Southeast
- Camp Ramah Darom
- Beth Baker
- Cynthia Berger
- Francine Weaver
- Arlene Appelrouth
- Bobbi Perlstein
- Leslie Anderson
- Elaine Blumenthal
- Howie Slomka
- Dr. Jerry Blumenthal
- Adina Rudisch
- LimmudFest 2021
- Ogelthorpe University
- jewish community
- Chadar Ochel
- Jewish museum
- Learning Oppurtunities
- Jewish culture
- Israeli Politics
- Family-friendly Shabbat services
- recreational activities
- social activities
- swimming pool
- guided hikes
- United States
- jewelry making
- Shabbat services
- High Holy Days