Less is more for LimmudLA

Organizers are hoping to attract more people to an annual festival of Jewish learning and culture by shortening the conference and lowering the price.

LimmudLA, which debuted on Presidents Day weekend 2008 with a 600-person conference at the Costa Mesa Hilton, will shift its schedule to end on Sunday night, while maintaining the bulk of the programming, according to Yossi Kastan, executive director of LimmudLA.

LimmudLA brings together Jews of all denominations for a volunteer-led weekend of text study, concerts, films, and political and social discussions. Limmud was developed in the United Kingdom 30 years ago, and has spread to 40 communities across the globe.

LimmudLA’s 2009 conference attracted 700 people, but only 500 attended in 2011. Through a survey, the board determined that the cost — $550 per person in a shared room in 2011 — was keeping more people from attending. While scholarships were available and the fee for children was lower, the cost for a family was prohibitive for many.

The new cost has not yet been determined, but Kastan expects shaving one night off will allow the board to push the price down into the mid-to-high-$300 range. With fewer people requesting scholarships — nearly a third of conference-goers got financial help last year — Kastan believes Limmud will be able to offer more significant help to those who need it.

Kastan emphasized that very little programming was sacrificed for the move. The conference will now start Friday morning instead of Friday afternoon.

On Sunday, guests will have to check out of their rooms by afternoon, but LimmudLA will store luggage and will still have full use of meeting areas. Sessions will continue into the evening, and the conference will culminate in a Sunday night concert. In previous years, the conference ended late Monday afternoon.

LimmudLA is also undergoing a leadership change. Kastan is moving to the East Coast in June to be near family and take a position as a head of school, so LimmudLA is searching for a new director.