Limmud (meaning ‘learning’) is a conference held every December for the whole Jewish community.  About 2500 people attend over 5 days and participate in sessions from studying Jewish texts and laws to Israeli dancing.  Any participant is also able to run a session, the principle behind Limmud being that ‘everyone can learn, and everyone can teach’.  In this spirit, and as part of the Judith Trust Inclusion Campaign, Limmud L’Am (meaning ‘for the people’) was held for the first time, as a pilot scheme, for 1 day of Limmud 2011.

Around 15 people with learning disabilities attended Limmud for the day.   The day began with a welcome drink and time to select sessions from an accessible programme, with large print, simple English and pictures.  They participated fully in the conference, through activities as varied as kosher sushi making, Yiddish stories and songs, Disability Rights in the UK and Israel and Kosher Gospel!  Volunteers with learning disabilities, from Norwood’s jewellery-making social enterprise, were supported to run a session for approximately 20 people, on how to make jewellery using old buttons.

A session was also held on the Judith Trust Inclusion Campaign.  Our new film was launched, showing the difficulties one family encountered when trying to organise a Bar Mitzvah for a child with complex needs, Saul.  Through the tenacity of Saul’s mother, an inspiring Chazan, some picture-based materials and a huge amount of hard work, Saul was able to have a moving ceremony and the film shows his continuing journey into Jewish adulthood.  At 18, Saul is now a fully-participative and highly-valued, member of his community.  Saul’s sister, Eliana, co-presented the session, expressing the immense joy Saul gets from participating and explaining how inclusion benefits the whole family.  Watch Saul’s story here:

During the session, adults with learning disabilities also spoke about their experiences.  To read Gregory’s speech about what he gains from going to shul, click here.  Another explained how challenging it had been for him to participate in a gap year programme in Israel, saying “nothing is easy when you have a disability”.  Others explained how important it is to them to be Jewish, enjoying going to Shul, keeping kosher and celebrating festivals.  Participants were motivated to think about how they could promote inclusion within their communities and Jewish organisations, and to contact the Judith Trust to get involved with the Inclusion Campaign.

Here are some comments from participants who attended Limmud L’Am:

  • It was really interesting
  • I would like to come again
  • There was so much to do, it was really hard to choose – I would like to come for longer next time
  • It would be good to stay over as it was very tiring travelling there and back in one day
  • I had such a great day – there was so much to do and so many people