I went to Limmud NY 2011 and wrote a lot of posts about it. Here’s a guide to them.
Every year at Limmud NY, there is a panel discussion or two with an irrelevant topic. The panel is just an excuse to get a group of interesting Jews who wouldn’t otherwise talk to each other to talk to each other.
This year’s was ostensibly about Shabbat. Moderated by writer and JLife Consulting founder Dasee Berkowitz, it included:
- Marc Katz (Reform rabbinical student and intern at Congregation Beth Elohim, which has an awesome new website since last time I saw it!)
- Malya Levin (until recently, Malya Kurzweil; law student; former Bais Yaakov student; daughter of author and speaker Arthur Kurzweil)
- David Ingber (lifelong spiritual seeker who ended up as the rabbi at Romemu, the flagship Renewal outfit in the New York area)
- DovBer Pinson (Rosh Yeshiva of the IYYUN Yeshiva and head of the IYYUN Center; black hat and the whole nine yards)
The content of the panel was great. Better than that were the reactions. Pinson spent a lot of time making great faces at what everyone else was saying–one of his best reactions was the bizarre facial contortion was provoked by Marc’s assertion that he has stopped checking email on Shabbat.
There was a pretty big crowd for the panel. It included:
- Leon Morris (former head of the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning at Temple Emanu-El; rabbi at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, NY; smartest Reform Jew ever)
- Julia Katz (Reform cantorial student; intern with Morris in Sag harbor; she and Marc married this summer)
- William Levin (Jewschooler Jewish Robot and creator of Shabot 6000; writer for the new Shalom Sesame episodes; he and Malya married this summer)
- Arthur Kurzweil (author and speaker; father of Malya)
- Yoni (Limmud NY’s mashgiach for at least the last four conferences)
In the case of the various family members I could spot, watching for their reactions and the occasional eye contact with the panelist they were related to as they were inevitably mentioned in the course of the discussion of their Shabbat observances was endlessly entertaining.
Yoni’s presence was somewhat surprising. Over the last four Limmud NYs, he’s become one of the unique friends that I wouldn’t otherwise know and that I look forward to seeing every year. When I first met him in 2008, he seemed rather suspicious of the entire Limmud enterprise. This year, he proudly told me he was going to try to go to at least one session every day, once his duties in the kitchen end after dinner each day. He asked what I thought he should go to on Friday night and I told him I was going to this panel. Yoni said he’d come because he wanted the full Limmud experience and that this panel, with its diverse voices, would help facilitate that.
He later told me he was glad the he went to the panel, but that he liked Pinson and Ingber the best.
I found all of them very interesting, but I actually found Malya and Marc the more interesting voices on the panel because they were both talking from the point of view of having recently gotten married. Both talked about how their experience of Shabbat has been altered by having to completely share it with another person.
Malya said that she and William have both noticed a bizarre trend in themselves–they’ve been “making fun of Shabbat” since they got married. For instance, one of them will say something like, “Oh, I’m gonna go turn on the oven and cook something. Oh wait… NOT! Because it’s Shabbat!”
Marc noted that it’s been very difficult for he and Julia to have a shared Shabbat experience because both of them work on Shabbat, Marc at a shul in Brooklyn and Julia at a shul out in Sag Harbor.
Good job, team. Good panel.
By the way, two years ago, it was a panel on differing denominational views of Halachah, moderated by Leon, including:
- David Ellenson (the head of the Reform seminary)
- David Hoffman (a member of the Conservative Committee on Jewish Law and Standards)
- J.J. Schacter (Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought and Senior Scholar at the Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University)
- Dan Ehrenkrantz (the head of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College)
Last year’s, which included Morris, Ingber and Rabba Sara Hurwitz, was about something else. Again, the topic ended up being irrelevant to the fact that these people are having a conversation in front of an audience. I wrote more about that panel here.