This year’s Limmud Boston arrives in Newton in less than two weeks, and that means that founder Steffi Karp is in permanent motion. “There are so many moving parts to Limmud Boston,” exhales Karp, her voice glowing with excitement.
Karp knows how to work the media masterfully now that she’s producing her seventh edition of the celebration of knowledge and Jewish ideas that is Limmud Boston. Like a presidential candidate, Karp thinks nothing of ignoring the intent of a question and substituting her own agenda, and when told that time is running out for our interview she launches another pitch, speeding up instead of winding down.
“Who’s our newest Jewish Nobel Laureate?” Karp asked, pausing for only half a beat. “Bob Dylan,” she says, answering herself before anyone else might process the question. She then starts talking up a session hosted by Cantor Jeff Klepper from Temple Sinai in Sharon titled, “Bob Dylan’s Jewish Blues.” Klepper is said to perform a deadly accurate Dylan impression.
This year’s Limmud Boston, an all-day, once a year celebration of Jewish life-long learning, takes place December 4 at Temple Reyim in Newton. The last five years it was held at Congregation Mishkin Tefila, which moved from Newton to Brookline several months ago. There are 82 such Limmud conferences held around the world.
“It’s everything from performance to food demonstrations,” said Karp, explaining the scope of Limmud Boston. “There’s a lot of tech study, with topics on everything – like Israel.” How about the recent presidential election? “I’m sure there will be lots of talk about that, too, because we have Jeremy Bruce, the head of the Jewish high school in Hartford, CT, who is a Limmudnick from the U.K.,” blurts Karp in her happy, hurried way. “His session is called God Save the Queen? Hail to the Chief? Who Would Judaism Vote For?”
Karp thinks the collection of presenters can border on the amazing. “Like Joshua Rubenstein – for 37 years he was the regional director for Amnesty International.”
Are sessions really held with people sitting on the floor as one photo from the Limmud Boston collection depicts? “That’s from last year, not a session, but a lunchtime chat. That’s very Limmud-like – you know, finding a space and making it yours. Every classroom will be used, every social space…” explained Karp about the evolving conference. “We also have exhibitors and this year we’re having a silent auction, too.”
Just because it’s an all-day event don’t feel you have to commit to a fixed timeframe. “Everybody signs up for the whole day, but plenty of people come for just the morning or just the afternoon. It’s $45 for the whole day if you register in advance, $54 if you pay at the door.”
If you have young children, don’t let them hinder your attendance. “We have professional staff from the early childhood center of the Jewish Community Center who are responsible for the kids,” Karp reminded. “And people like Ellen Allard, who is a very popular Jewish musician for children, she’s going to be doing a session on yoga.”
There is also “Camp Limmud,” which offers similar programs for kids, with some of the adult presenters put into service hosting sessions targeted at young people of different ages.
Combined Jewish Philanthropies helps subsidize the educators attending.