In a global first, Jews from Asia will gather near the Great Wall of China to build regional unity and share their Jewish experiences at Limmud China, an initiative of Jewish community leaders from Asia supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and Limmud International. Nearly 100 Jews from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States, are registered for the day-long event on June 3, 2012.

“Until recently the small but growing Jewish community of Beijing has been somewhat isolated from the mainstream Jewish world. Although we have had the honor of being a Jewish touch point to increasing numbers of Jewish travelers to China, hosting the upcoming Limmud will bring us closer to other Jewish communities from around the region and binds us with a worldwide tradition of Jewish communal learning,” said Roberta Lipson, director and co-founder of Kehilat Beijing and one of Limmud China’s local volunteer organizers. As China’s longest standing contemporary Jewish community, Kehilat Beijing, co-founded some 30 years ago by Lipson, is one of the Jewish organizations behind Limmud China.

Participants will be able to choose from a wide variety of sessions, including a program on Jewish identity by Limmud International’s Clive Lawton, co-founder of the original Limmud in the UK over 30 years ago; as well as sessions on Torah and Talmud text study; the role of women in Jewish community life; Chinese interest in Jews and Jewish communities; the history of the Bene Israel in India; the future of Jewish life in Asia, and a workshop on Asian-Jewish cooking.

“One of the hallmarks of JDC’s work globally has been its ability to unite Jews locally, regionally, and internationally in the pursuit of innovating Jewish life, education, and culture. Guided by the extraordinary passion of local Asian Jewish leaders, and together with our friends at Limmud International, we know this mini conference will set the stage for regional Jewish cohesion and a newfound attachment to the global Jewish community. It is a fitting next chapter to JDC’s work in the region,” said JDC’s CEO Steven Schwager.

There are an estimated 20,000 Jews in East Asia, including many ex-pats as well as those from indigenous Jewish communities. In China, about 5-6,000 Jews can be found on the mainland and a little more than 4,000 Jews in Hong Kong. Asia is made up of long-standing, organized Jewish communities — like those in India, Hong Kong, and Tokyo — and newer, smaller communities of corporate executives, entrepreneurs, managers, diplomats, and teachers in international schools and colleges. Many Jewish organizations have been active in Asia, including Chabad, JDC, and the Progressive Judaism movement, among others.

China is the newest addition to the Limmud International family, which includes over 60 communities on five continents — all committed to a cross-communal, volunteer-led approach to open Jewish learning in its widest sense.

“This inaugural Limmud event in China is a powerful tribute to the determination of Jews throughout Asia to engage with Jewish learning and with Jewish community, overcoming vast distances and other hurdles,” said Limmud International Co-Chair, Dr. Helena Miller. “We are proud that Limmud offers an inclusive meeting ground and a model that transcends religious and communal differences. We’re equally proud of our ongoing partnership with the JDC, which has supported Limmud endeavors in Europe, the FSU, South America, and now Asia.”