LimmudLA honors founders

LimmudLA honored its founders, Linda Fife and Shep Rosenman, in an evening of dinner, music and study on Sunday, Sept. 9, at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens.

LimmudLA is the local outlet of an international model of interdisciplinary, interdenominational, no-boundaries Jewish conferences and events. Founded in the United Kingdom more than 30 years ago, Limmud now conducts 60 conferences in 30 countries, all of them almost entirely run by volunteers.

Fife and Rosenman conceived of bringing Limmud to Los Angeles about seven years ago, after they participated in a Limmud conference in New York. They rallied volunteers and funders and five years ago held the first conference in Southern California over Presidents’ Day weekend, with close to 700 participants converging at the Hilton Orange County in Costa Mesa. The conferences have continued there each February since then.

In 2013, however, LimmudLA plans to forgo its annual marquis conference, instead holding smaller, local events ranging from cultural to academic to family-oriented.

“We’re trying to be localized and organic to the communities where we’re doing different events,” said Yechiel Hoffman, executive director of LimmudLA, the only paid staff member. “Rather than taking people out to Orange County for an event, this gives us a way of being able to provide different options and different access points where people are.”

More than 400 volunteers have stepped up for LimmudLA since its inception. Hoffman said about 120 people are currently active volunteers. LimmudLA plans to hold a multi-day event next summer and is aiming to put on the full conference again in the winter of 2014. 

About 175 people came to honor Fife and Rosenman at what was LimmudLA’s first gala fundraiser. The organization met its goal of raising $75,000. 

The event featured music, text study and an examination of Jewish narrative. Rather than a plaque, Rosenman and Fife each received the newly published Koren Talmud, Tractate Brachot, and rather than a traditional acceptance speech, they staged a musical collaboration that had the audience responding to Rosenman’s “oom-pa-pas” and “ba-da-das.” Fife said it was, like LimmudLA, an example of volunteers stepping out of their comfort zones to produce something meaningful.

Limmud L.A. in the Works

When attorney Shep Rosenman attended the interdenominational, interdisciplinary, cultural/experiential/academic Limmud conference in New York, what surprised him most was how much he was able to step out of his comfort zone.

“I would normally not take a class called ‘Do Jews Believe in Astrology.’ It’s not really my bailiwick, nor is ‘Facing an Abusing God, a Theology of Protest.’ But those were two of the most moving classes I took,” Rosenman said.

Rosenman and a handful of other community leaders are trying to bring Limmud to L.A.

Founded in England more than 25 years ago, Limmud conferences have been spreading across the globe in the past 10 years, reaching New York two years ago. In three- to four-day conferences, Jews of all denominations, interests and backgrounds gather for classes, concerts, prayers, art workshops, food and a cohesive Jewish experience.

Rosenman said about 25 people are involved in an effort to have a Limmud L.A. conference during President’s Weekend 2008. Working groups have been formed, and venues, teachers and funding are all being sought.

Rosenman hopes the varied offerings and experiences can serve as a galvanizing force for L.A.’s fragmented Jewry.

“Limmud represents a real opportunity for people who don’t otherwise mingle in their learning or social circles, or in their shared passion for Jewish art, music or culture, to be in a safe environment together,” Rosenman said. “Some beautiful stuff has the potential to gestate and grow us into a community that is much less fractured.”

To learn more or get involved, call Shep Rosenman at (310) 867-3640 or visit

Women and the Machzor

What did women have to do with developing the High Holiday prayers? That is the topic to be explored at Netivot Women’s Torah Study Institute’s Elul Seminar on Sunday, Sept. 17 at Beth Jacob congregation in Beverly Hills. Netivot offers a full schedule of text-based classes for women throughout the year, including classes in prophets, the weekly portion and Gemara. A highly successful mother-daughter bat mitzvah class will begin again in January. For more information, visit

Kadima Students Reach Out to Israel Over Summer

Even before school started, the students and families of Kadima Hebrew Academy in West Hills were supporting the victims of war in Israel. Kadima’s seventh-graders were especially affected by the war, as a peer at the Teva School, Kadima’s sister school in Tel Aviv, lost her brother during the fighting in Lebanon. Kadima’s preschool director, Hana Livni, who was in Israel at the time, paid a condolence call to the family and brought them gifts from Kadima.
During the summer, students wrote letters offering moral support to Israeli soldiers, and urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to continue supporting Israel. Kadima parents and trustees Shawn and Dorit Evenhaim paid for the relocation costs of 30 Israeli families to move from their homes in the north to the safer southern areas.

For information visit

Tooting Their Horns

Weizmann Day School in Pasadena opens school every year by inviting faculty and students, past and present, to gather to blow the shofar, an event repeated every morning throughout Rosh Hashanah. With less than 50 students and 14 teachers, the small school has made its mark. Historically over 60 percent of its students have achieved standardized test scores at or above the 97th percentile nationally. Weizmann recently received the city of Pasadena’s Model of Unity Award, presented to the school for the 2005 Daniel Pearl Harmony for Humanity Concert, which brought Weizmann students together with Muslim and Christian students from Pasadena’s New Horizon and St. Marks schools.

For information, visit

New Faces

Sam Edelman, a scholar in Holocaust education, is the new dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Judaism.

Edelman spent 27 years at Cal State University at Chico, where he was a professor of rhetoric and communication studies as well as Jewish and Holocaust studies. He was the founder and director of the program in Modern Jewish and Israel Studies. Edelman will remain in his position as the co-director, with his wife, Carol, of the state of California Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance. For information, visit or

New Faces II

Jenna Rubin, a 15-year Jewish education veteran, is the new director of religious education at B’nai Tikvah Congregation in Westchester.

“My mission is for our students to develop to their full potential as both Jews and human beings. We’ll focus on nurturing each student’s self-identity, cultivating each student’s place within the community, and developing each student’s relationship with God,” Rubin said.

For information visit

New Jew Principal Goes To Harvard

Ellen Howard, principal of New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, was one of 10 day school principals from around the country sponsored by the AviChai Foundation to attend a summer seminar for educators at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Participants in “Leadership: An Evolving Vision” combined rigorous study with writing, reflection and peer interaction, identifying priorities and sharing ideas and solutions.

“We learned how to enhance the quality of the school experience for everyone — students, teachers, and administrators alike,” Howard said.

For more information on New Community Jewish High School, visit