Limmud is a forum for Jewish learning organized by volunteers. It started in England, but now exists in many countries all over the world. Limmud is mostly attended by non-orthodox folks. Orthodox rabbis have even "banned" attendance. But this year, the new (orthodox) Chief Rabbi of England has decided to attend Limmud which put into motion some discussion about the pros and cons.
Instead of re-iterating what has been said, I will quote Rabbi Fink who writes in his article:
Non-Orthodox Judaism has kept many of our brothers and sisters in the fold. They are Jewish and religious in their own way thanks to Reform, Conservative, and the rest of them. For that we sincerely thank them. But many yearn for more. Not everyone that yearns for more will become Orthodox. Many of them would never attend a lecture that has Kiruv written all over it. But they will attend Limmud. They will attend other pluralistic events. That is our opportunity to inspire them.
I want to add two (maybe contradictory) personal statements from my experiences at Limmud.
First, I am a Limmud fan since my first Limmud three years ago. The atmosphere is just great. And it is decidedly a Jewish atmosphere. If you life so far away from a bigger community like me, it is very rare to have this feeling of Jewish community, so this is a big part of why I enjoy Limmud. But in all the Limmud conferences I have attended, there have been very few orthodox people, rabbis or otherwise. And that is something I would really like to change! If I had the choice between some orthodox Torah lecture and a drum lesson, I would attend the Torah lecture – after all I go to Limmud because it is an opportunity to explore Judaism. I can get drum lessons everywhere, I don’t have many Jewish learning opportunities where I live. So by "banning" orthodox participation in Limmud, you make my Limmud experience less rich than it could be.
My second point might seem to contradict the first. I have only come into contact with Reform and Conservative Jews through Limmud. My first contacts, the books I read, everything was orthodox (I live in a city with a very small community that is nominally orthodox, the rabbi is orthodox, but the community is mostly not). I thought all non-orthodox Jews are like the secular Israeli who thought Yom Kippur is a great opportunity for a barbecue (after all, it’s a holiday, shouldn’t you celebrate it?). Until I met non-orthodox Jews at Limmud who were committed, inspired, informed, practicing and searching for meaning in their Judaism. Now I might end up converting through a non-orthodox movement. But who knows, had there been a Limmud-like event for orthodox Jews or more committed, inspired, … orthodox Jews at Limmud, I might have gone in another direction, with different contacts made, different opportunities opened up. What if I had considered myself bound by the "ban" and never had gone to Limmud? I might have dropped Judaism alltogether, I was getting really lonely and frustrated at that time. Or maybe not, and I would still convert orthodox (and probably be not a step closer to conversion than 3 years ago) – who knows.
So, what is the point of this post? I would like more orthodox presence at Limmud. I do not think it will lead to people losing orthodoxy (even if I myself might be a counter example). I think the "banning" of working with other denominations causes more harm and strife and may even cause people to turn away from orthodoxy because of that. The most important goal should be that every individual finds the type of Judaism that is right form her/him and that gives her/him joy and meaning.