Feature Stories

Limmud Travels to India

For four Indian Jews, the decision to bring an internationally renowned Jewish festival to Mumbai started more than 3,000 miles away — in Shanghai.

In April, Gabriel Varulkar, Nurith Samuel, Florence Haeems, and Isaac Herzel traveled to China for JDC’s inaugural Limmud there, the first time the wildly popular informal education conference that started in England in 1980 was held in the world’s most populous nation.

After several days of Jewish learning outside of Beijing, the Indians returned home inspired, committed to bringing Limmud to Mumbai and its approximately 4,000 Jews.

“I experienced Limmud in all its exuberance in Shanghai,” Samuel said. “What I loved about Limmud was the feeling of being involved, accepted, and responsible for the program. As both a participant and volunteer at Limmud, I was responsible for my own learning as well as ensuring that my co-participants and volunteers had positive learning outcomes.”

Their dream became a reality November 3, when 120 adults and 30 children participated in Mumbai’s inaugural Limmud, held at the JDC-supported Evelyn Peters Jewish Community Center (EPJCC). Salome Abraham, a JDC staff member in India, worked with the initial four volunteers and six others to help facilitate the event.

For 300 rupees (about $5), attendees were able to choose from eight different 45-minute workshops covering a variety of topics — everything from Krav Maga and Israeli Cooking to “Successful Jews in Business” and a panel discussion on the future of the Indian Jewish community.

Abraham said discussions like that are one of the reasons a “whole day of Jewish culture” is valuable in Mumbai.

“It’s very easy to lose your Jewish identity in a country where the crowd is predominantly Hindu, Muslim, and other religions,” she said.

Limmud India was run as a test event, and given its success, organizers say they’re hopeful it’ll soon become an annual event.

“As part of the small Bene Israeli community in Mumbai, I have come to value the idea of being responsible for others and hope that at the end of Limmud India, some participants came to value this idea, too,” Samuel said.

JDC, a constant friend and partner to Mumbai’s Jewish community, is essential to those feelings of community and tradition, she added.

“For me and many of my peers, the JCC is the center and anchor of our Jewishness in a multicultural city like Mumbai. The JCC is a place of many firsts for me personally, a place where I began my journey of discovering my Jewish identity, a place where I’ve made some lifelong pals, a place that nurtured an awkward teenager into a young Jewess ready to take on the world,” she said. “There could be no better place than the JCC and no more supportive a partner than JDC to launch the first-ever Limmud in India.”

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