E-festival brings the learning home
By Deb Silverthorn
Organizers of Limmud North America are joining the Zoom-fueled online learning boom with an e-fest from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 24.
“Our mission is to animate the Jewish community by connecting Jews of diverse backgrounds with transformative learning and with each other,” said Rabbi David Singer, Limmud North America national director. “We will not let this crisis get in the way,” he said, referring to the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The event opens with actress Mayim Bialik as host and features comedian and Dallas native Benji Lovitt, musician and educator Deborah Sacks Mintz and musician Rabbi Josh Warshawsky. The Limmud eFestival is set just days before Shavuot (beginning May 28), which is a customary time for Jews worldwide to take on study. The online learning program will share 34 titles with a variety of content including “Jewish Homesteading,” “The Secret Jews of Majorca,” “Hoarding Toilet Paper: Coveting vs. Contentment,” “Jewish Grandparenting Today” and “Torah Yoga.”
Lovitt, helping to open the event, is the son of Zelene and Robert and brother of Avra and Steven. He’s a J.J. Pearce alum who grew up at Congregation Beth Torah and made aliyah in 2006.
His routine, usually filled with a comedic look at life in Israel and cultural differences, now adds a look at Zoom Seders and the lighter side of life right now. “Online programs can’t compare to my in-person shows but what has come out of it is that distance is removed,” Lovitt said. “I did a Yom HaAtzmaut program for the Jewish community ‘in’ Ireland, a place I’ve never been,” said Lovitt, from his living room in Jaffa. He’s performed online for Congregation Shearith Israel, Jewish Federation chapters and Israel Bonds and has scheduled an event with Texas Hillel Alumni.
Rabbi Singer served as associate rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel from 2012 to 2015. He married Dallas native Danielle Rugoff and has returned to the area after four years in San Diego as executive director of UC San Diego Hillel.
“This was the right time, and the right opportunity for us to come back to Dallas. Danielle and I got back in December, just about in time to not be able to see our friends and family, but we couldn’t be happier to be back. This is an extraordinary place to us, and we know we’ll all be together, in person, soon,” he said. “Joining the grassroots effort of Limmud and its 18 programs across the United States is something I couldn’t be prouder of.”
The coronavirus shutdown gave Rabbi Singer and volunteers around the country a challenge as programs scheduled for March, in Canada, Louisiana, Michigan and New York, were canceled with short notice.
Limmud North America then pivoted to a March 29 virtual event, the Festival of Jewish Ideas, organized in just nine days. More than 1,200 guests enjoyed sifting through 50 offerings and signing on to the event.
“This is great, and I love that so many people can connect because it really is for all ages and people of all backgrounds,” said Sissy Zoller, a March event registrant who has been involved with Limmud NY for many years.
In addition to the e-fest, the group plans to debut a book club at 7 p.m. June 8 featuring “Promised Land” author Martin Fletcher.
“Our goal is to feature and elevate Jewish ideas and people. Our work is needed now more than ever,” said Rabbi Singer. “We are confident that we can make people feel connected and more engaged, despite the quarantine we are all experiencing.”
Use the code TJPNEWS to receive the early bird registration ($25) discount through May 15. General registration beyond will be $36. To register for Limmud eFestival or the Limmud Book Club, visit limmudna.org.