I went to Limmud NY 2011 and wrote a lot of posts about it. Here’s a guide to them.
Last year, I was much more aware of this issue than I was this year. At last year’s Limmud NY, I was still working for Limmud NY, so I had my laptop out a lot because I was running @LimmudNY on Twitter. Shabbat felt very obviously different from the rest of the conference because I wasn’t rushing to tweet from every once in a while.
This year, I hardly used my laptop at all during the entire conference. Since last year, I also got a Droid, which I turned off on Friday night and left off for the rest of the conference.
In the car on the way up to the hotel on Tuesday–I rolled in with the early shift of volunteers and office staff–someone mentioned that there had been a proposal for a public space where people could use phones and computers on Shabbat. The Hudson Valley Resort, where the conference takes place, has wifi in the lobby and all of the conference areas, but not in the hotel rooms, so it may be an issue for some people who want or need to be connected to the outside world on Shabbat.
I thought this was a great idea, but apparently it either never made it out of the planning stages, it got shot down in a Steering Committee meeting or it just failed to materialize. Whatever the reason, I think it would be a good thing to have.
By the way, the language used in the program book that every community member receives at the conference to describe Shabbat at Limmud NY is delightfully nuanced. Kol Hakavod to whoever wrote the current version. Here are some highlights from A Guide to Shabbat at Limmud NY on page 28 of this year’s program book:
What is our kavanah (intention) for Shabbat at Limmud NY?…
We have worked hard to create a warm and spirited Shabbat, with diverse options for prayer services and other Shabbat programs….
We encourage you to take the opportunity to examine the ways you observe or do not observe Shabbat and explore new meaning in your practices. We invite you to help create a cooperative and pluralistic community that will be stimulating and inclusive….
Whether for halacha (Jewish law) or for personal aesthetic, the intentionality of the Shabbat experience at Limmud NY is comparable to a meditation retreat: we ask you that you turn off outside distractions and tune in to everything we have in this one shared space….
This next bit is of particular interest to me, as a compulsive note-taker:
In public spaces which cater to the entire group, Limmud NY will adhere to traditional Shabbat observance (for instance, microphones, musical instruments, cell phones, cameras and computers will not be used).
In individual sessions (opposed to public spaces) we’ll offer a wide range of options reflecting the interests and practices of our participants. These will be clearly identified in the Program Book (for example: “Please note that musical instruments will be used in this session”).
Leaving aside issues with the word traditional in this context, this section includes an interesting list of actions that are potentially problematic on Shabbat. Note-taking, Baruch Hashem, is not one of them. Though I’ve been asked in Shabbat contexts aside from Limmud NY to stop taking notes before, in my four years at Limmud NY (not to mention a Shabbat spent at Limmud Colorado), I’ve never been asked not to take notes at Limmud.