LimmudPhilly: A Panoramic Jewish Learningfest!Sat., Feb. 21, 8:15-11 p.m., and Sun., Feb. 22, 7 a.m.-6 p.m., $18-$54, Gershman Y, 401 S. Broad St., 267-235-4083, limmudphilly.org
What do ghost stories, calligraphy, the Declaration of Independence, yoga, surrealism and Grey's Anatomy have to do with Judaism? A better question: What can't be connected to Jewish culture in some way?
These are just a smattering of topics that scholars, rabbis and writers will explore at this weekend's LimmudPhilly, a nondenominational Jewish learning festival. The conference will feature presentations, discussions and study sessions on seemingly every aspect of Jewish culture, including politics, history and spirituality. There will also be workshops on reading the Torah and knitting ritual objects, performances by the National Yiddish Theatre, and lessons on radical Jewish ethics and Holocaust art.
With more than 90 sessions crammed into less than 24 hours, and a mere 15 minutes between them to nosh on kosher food or shop at the festival's Middle Eastern market, you could drive yourself meshuggina trying to take it all in. But Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, co-chair of the event's steering committee, hopes that attendees will relish the opportunity to "create their own experience," stressing that the point of LimmudPhilly is to both teach people and foster community.
The celebrations of Limmud — the word is Hebrew for "learning" — started in England more than 25 years ago. Since then, they have spread to 40 cities throughout the diaspora. Although the conferences always share the core goals of diversity, learning, community and volunteerism, the LimmudPhilly organizers also placed great importance on planning a concentrated urban event rather than a rural retreat, offering lower prices for people under 30 years old, and creating separate programs for children ages three to 10. With sessions geared toward atheists and interfaith families, including Kerry Olitsky's talk on "welcoming the stranger," even non-Jews should find plenty of interest.
"Well," says Herrmann. "They'd have to at least be curious about Judaism."
With Grey's Anatomy on the table, who isn't?