A recent study carried out by the Casey Review on the subject of integration on highlights the fact that the fear of people who are different to us, has prompted many, to retreat into their own communites rather than engage with others outside. Whilst this statistic might be accurate, I wonder how well we fare in our sense of integration with those who are within our own community, as opposed to those outside. I decided to delve more deeply into this question following my recent attendance at the Limmud Conference, which I found to be a most enriching experience.
Several years ago, when the now Chief Rabbi Mirvis was contemplating his very first attendance at the Limmud conference, he was heavily criticised by members of the orthodox Rabbinate for doing so, because it was argued that Limmud study sessions obscure and undermine authentic Orthodox Judaism through its contact with non-Orthodox beliefs and practices. Having recently, a ended my very first Limmud experience for which I owe a huge thanks to our president and all those who have encouraged and supported me to a end, I say as follows. My experience of Limmud is that it a affords a unique opportunity for Orthodox Jews, Masorti Jews, as well as Liberal and Reform Jews to come together in a positive and like minded way, and to share, and learn from each other in a respectful and dignified way. The Ethics of our fathers (Pirkei Avot) asks – who is is wise? Its answer, The one who learns from every person. Our Synagogue Ark is inscribed with the words “Eitz Chaim”, “This is a tree of Life, to those that grasp it.” But how does one grasp Torah knowledge in the the absence of being exposed to those that teach it? The chief rabbi’s courageous precedent sets out an important lesson to all, and it is for this reason I think, that Limmud provides a unique platform for a Jewish learning experience regardless of our own levels of observance and or Jewish knowledge. But even more importantly Limmud provides opportunities for communities and individuals to integrate and connect, and when the world is so divided, we must remain united