LIMMUD 2010 @ Berlin: Learning to appreciate


LIMMUD – Learning to appreciate, appreciating to learn
Another Limmud festival took place in Berlin at the Lake of Werbellin from May 13 to May 16, 2010, in a peaceful and inspirational, yet not quiet atmosphere. How can it be quiet when hundreds of Jews are hoarded together and supposed to try their argumentational talents, learning and teaching skills on other Jews?…
It’s a small tradition for Germany’s Jewry which has started a couple of years ago. The first festival took place in 2006 and since then it has spread over Germany’s metropoles  -Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich. Limmud’s home for major events is and remains Berlin.
Let’s talk tacheles. Besides the nature, the bright green leaves of the high trees all around the camp, the big windy lake of Werbellin and the hundreds of Jewish participants from all four corners of Germany (are there such?…):
What were you supposed to receive from this festival of Jewish Learning and Jewish thought?
Definitely a taste of diversity. Religious streams of all kinds were represented my workshop leaders and participants. Languages being spoken and switched in a naturally beautiful manner from workshop to person every day anew. Meetings with people from all kind of origins, social fields of profession and education. The director of Simon Wiesenthal  Center Efraim Zuroff was seen in a number of workshops and prayer services; Barbara Spectre of Paideia (Sweden) switched from participant to teacher roles within a couple of hours; rabbis could be found at each possible corner; writers and musicians mixed with worried “Yiddishe mamas”, grandmas and a number of children were waiting impatiently in front of the dining room…
What else: enough room for activity and new things to learn: A literature discussion on Yehuda Amichai’s poetry, on Thomas Mann’s attitude towards Jews, John Lennon and Jewish liturgy, Israeli culture and Iranian Jews, spiritual and down-to-earth exercises, rabbis, philosophers and – why not – donkeys – all this and much more musicality, creativity and visuality had its place at Limmud.
Strengthening of identity. Obviously. The spirit of modern Jewishness was hovering over the camp. To say it more simply, I believe that each Jew could really. find his/her place in Limmud. You don’t need to demand for high challenges or Talmudic-Yeshivish upgrade of knowledge to experience Jewishness.

And as a conclusion from that all:
You were made to appreciate the subjects around you and your own way of learning and understanding. This time I had to share this experience with people being mostly older than me by a cuple of decades. Next time I wish to experience it with more younger people, simply because they have a whole life of learning in front of them and I believe  we need more security in ourselves and what we learn and understand. This is what Limmud gives to its participants as well.
This all wouldn’t be possible without organisatory and logistical help.

Thank you, Limmud team, for the variety of workshops: You’ve provided the food for our souls and haven’t let us run dry.
For your service, catering etc.: I felt as if in a hotel. I believe you were spoiling us who we came to Limmud.
For your organisation: You’ve proven to me that not all hope is lost when it comes to Jews organising mass events. Everything well-planned so that one culd really relax and enoy.
Thank you for spending your time and power on this great event.
Much gratitude and wishes of strength and inspiration to Toby Axelrod, the initiator of Limmud. May your creativity be like a “ma’ayan hamitgaber” to you and us now and in future.

Perhaps I’m only an optimist, but I’m sure not to be the only one:
I believe that our job, the Jewish and the human one, is to find the blessing in each event we take part in.
Limmud in my eyes is about to learn to appreciate.




Museum and me – Berlinian impressions 2


The human being always directs his most attention to things familiar, known and/or dear to him. A connection is the most important thing. No matter where or how. It’s part of his behaviour.

That’s what I’ve learned the last days.

As for museum (museums – hardly an acceptable plural), in Berlin I used the opportunity to enter one or two – after a long time of observing solely “wild life”.

The first day I’ve spent at the Jewish Museum, the whole daytime until dawn. (Not a very smart decision because afterwards I had to discover the “rest” during twilight and cold darkness.) The Jewish Museum, I must acknowledge, is full of everything. It’s really crowded with objects worthy of seeing them. It’s full of photos, items and – description plates. Perhaps the second most important thing in a museum.

On my feelings I had during my Jewish Museum visit – and afterwards while visiting other galeries – I understood what characterizes my behaviour at “cultural sights” the most:

I basically go to a museum or an exhibition to look for things I know or have seen, things I’ve already liked most. You understand? I believe most people visit these places in order to find something new, to see things they’d never find anywhere else. Or if to a concert, then to hear music one would not normally come across.

But me, I get most delighted when stumbling upon something good, old, familiar. I cannot go visit museum or listen to musicians playing something I’ve never heard of. A slight conservatism of a strange direction. I’m not sure whether this is the purpose of a concert or an exhibition. Yet in cases of pleasure of this sort, I don’t like taking risks. Because I don’t like the feeling of being disappointed, of having wasted my time.

It’s as if I was meeting old friends instead of trying to find new ones.

So now, back to the keyword –  what does a Jew look for in a Jewish Museum?

I believe, he would look for items he’d be able to feel connected to.  To be honest, more or less I went through and learned about Ashkenazi Jewish history already years ago. If then I get to a museum of exactly this culture, I don’t know how to react.

And so I was wandering around and what caused my real interest?

When I found stories telling of Jewish youth of today and how they maintain their lives. When I saw posters and photos from the beginnings of Jewish resettlement in the HolyLand.

But here comes the real highlight of the visit:

In the special exhibition on Kosher food and food rituals in other cultures (amusing and really entertaining topic, very well presented!!) I ran into a recording of Jewish food blessings.

By a Yemenite rabbi!!

Nothing could erase my smile afterwards.

(For people who don’t know my Yemenite story, just take it for granted that anything Yemenite wams my heart 24 hours a day.)

And then as the top of the whole adventure, I got to see a episode of one of the funniest TV series ever. “Avoda Aravit”, Arab Labour.

Israeli series in Hebrew. In the museum.

What does one want more?!

Except for, well, reading from an old Torah scroll in another exhibition in another museum.

You see, my guideline sounds something like

“To go out in order to go in” or “to leave in order to return”.

Funny thing. My mother educated me culturally since year 1 and before.

And I go there in order to return to my own “kitchen and sewing box”.

But at least, I have fun!

Sometimes there’s no need at all to bite the bullet. 🙂


In my Capital – Berlinian impressions 1


Making myself familiar with Berlin. Berlin…

So here I am – and very soon the time will have arrived for me to leave – in my capital city. In Berlin, in the North-Eastern part of Germany.

Far away from Cologne.

And my thoughts wander and I’m glad to experience this new corner of the world.

Berlin! A superlative in all its respects. Wide streets, endless boulevards, high, old-fashioned houses. As I haven’t seen so many big European cities so far, for me Berlin represents the ultimate fusion of Old World and attempts of Modern Age. As I said, I haven’t seen too many metropolises. Yet there are certain ones I can compare Berlin with.  I like them all. So I must admit, Berlin didn’t fascinate people for nothing.

It’s Germany’s heart, for sure a Northern one yet still the source of energy for this country. In its own way.

Somehow I perceive Berlin in another way as it happens to me with Cologne. The elements and remains of the previous generations of which this town and its inhabitants are undoubtly proud of – or at least content with  – it’s astonishing. Highly admirable for me. Cologne, the town I’ve spent most of my life in, never seemed to me striving to preserve nor make use of the prudence of previous generations, it didn’t really care for its own spirit or atmosphere . Now that I have Berlin around me, I realise that Cologne’s way of life – if I only knew why! – has too often been to look forward and never “backward”, as if to feel free of the former burdens such as old-fashioned houses and worn-out looking streets. So-called modernity, either because of the present multiculturalism in Cologne, or because nothing  of the older kind remained after the war – this is present Cologne’s direction, goal and god.

And it seems to me so artificial.

Not the like in Berlin. And this makes me, personally, feel good here. Somehow it’s a town which is not ashamed of its own. Not ashamed to maintain a certain image and not to change it year after year. It is respectable and loves details.  Berlin does not need any Roman ruins to gain historical importance. Almost like in Jerusalem, you may feel in Berlin the history of countries, states and lives clouded around you. Sometimes it seems overweighted, at certain places. I recomment to avoid them from time to time.

I’ve been longing a lot in Cologne for buildings, equipment and everyday life which would allow you to feel connected also to the past and not only to the future which never seems futuristical enough. To some, high stone buildings in beige, brown and grey with sometimes only one window side might seem depressing. I  enjoy them. It’s only reasonable that Berlin and sorroundings are considered a federal state on its own. There’s indeed no lack in space in this town.

The Wall, the Brandenburg Gate  -and I’ve even visited the Reichstag with the last visitors’ group at night – lovely places actually. I had been eager to see the East  -and discovered that there isn’t nowadays so much difference between the two. Now, after 20 years of unification.

I wonder whether the people here who lived in West or East before 1989 can understand the Jerusalemites and what the War of 1967 meant to them. I wonder whether a person who had felt his heart torn apart when the wall separated him from his beloved ones between ’61 and ’89 now thinks with compassion of Palestinians whose land was used to build the security fence in Betlehem and West Bank.  There are many walls on the earth. But not all cause hearts to melt, hate and danger to disappear and people to unite, once they fall.

My aim here for these 3 days was to understand a bit the spirit of this city. For this, I made use of busses (2 floors like in London! I am impressed!), trams, city trains and underground rail. My daily ticket covered all areas I had the time to visit. Walking and eating and phoning at the least comfortable places belongs to this “hunt for Berlin spirit” just like entering backyards of houses and visiting a “Room of Silence” and the like. And sometimes I just had to stop and breath through.

And it has been only 20% of the town area I’ve run through, or even less!!

Today afternoon (30/12) I’m gonna leave.

But I hope very much to come back when nature’s returned to the town. Means in summer. There are various lakes in and around Berlin. I haven’t seen even one. It’s winter time.

So, what?

I love Berlin.


I feel good in Berlin.

I’ve bought a coffee cup there.

Meanwhile a visitor. Isralike