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Limmud Oz Fest Finds the Missing Generation

December 8, 2011 – 9:55 pm7 Comments
Punk Jews, directed by Jesse Mann, produced by Evan Kleinman.

One of the most popular sessions was Evan Kleinman's screening of his film, Punk Jews

By Anthony Frosh
After the most recent Limmud Oz that took place at Monash University Caulfield campus in Melbourne (2010), there was considerable discussion about the absence of young people. Indeed, an article in this publication, The Missing Generation of Limmud Oz, documented that few people in their thirties or younger attended.

However, the most recent Limmud event to occur in Australia, Limmud Oz Fest, held the weekend before last at a campsite near Daylesford, Victoria, demonstrated that there is plenty of demand from the “missing generation.” That is, as long as the event is marketed and organised in a fashion that appeals to this demographic.

A little over a month before Limmud Oz Fest, the organisers of the event held a preliminary event called Taste of Fest. It was held at the popular Pause bar on Carlisle St, and provided an opportunity for people who were considering attending the Fest weekend to meet fellow travellers and find out about some of the sessions that would take place.  The evening featured a number of highly talented Jewish musicians who performed against a backdrop of a projected slideshow providing information on several sessions and presenters who would be appearing at Fest. An entertaining panel session where Alana Bruce, the evening’s MC, interviewed a few presenters about their upcoming sessions.divided up the musical acts.  This preliminary event proved to be a terrific evening, attracting plenty of young people and providing promotional momentum for the Fest .

The Limmud Oz Fest weekend itself proved to be just as well organised, albeit with a higher degree of difficulty. And while young people were abound, there were also many people from older generations as well as several young families.  It was an incredible effort from the organisers who not only assembled a brilliant array of sessions, including outstanding local talent as well as some top-notch overseas presenters (including Jeffrey Yoskowitz ,Evan Kleinman, David Brown, and Shani Tzoref), but also managed to be constantly feeding attendees with Kosher meals. All of this took place at a perfectly serene campsite.

The professionalism of the organisers did not stop at the conclusion of weekend. I had barely been back in Melbourne a day when I opened by inbox to find an invitation to an electronic survey (and a very well designed survey at that – and I should know – it’s how I make my living) in regard to my Limmud Oz Fest experience, and any thoughts I had on how it could have been improved.  It seems the organisers are determined to do even better come the next Fest.

The success of the event has reverberated around the world, with event receiving praise from Limmud international  (who had provided guidance and moral support) and ROI

So the question remains: How does Limmud Oz attract young people to the non-Fest variety of event? Or perhaps the question is: If young people attend Fest, is there a need to try to get them to also attend the regular Limmud Oz? I think the answer to the latter question is probably yes.  It’s clearly better for the Limmud brand if they can grow both types of events, and it’s difficult to foresee any growth if it doesn’t involve attracting young people.  With regard to the former question, a good start would be if the established Limmud committee (who I understand provided significant funding for Fest) capitalised on synergies with the highly capable young people who did such a great job of promoting and organising Fest.  In the meantime, hats off to the organisers, Malki Rose, Alana Bruce, Cygal Pellach, Alex Kats, Keren Tuch, Nikki Peipert, Seraphya Berrin, and all the rest of the dedicated volunteers.

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  • Shira Wenig says:

    It’s only one element, but I think the cost of the regular Limmud is prohibitive for some young people.

  • Grandma C says:

    As someone senior who attended the first Australian Limmud-Fest camp outside Sydney last year, I would like to echo your commendation of the young people who organised and were involved in the Sydney Fest. Some of the names you mentioned above were involved in organising or presenting at the first Fest. So they had a bit of experience behind them, and probably improved upon it. I think if you want to improve the attendance of young people at Limmud OZ in Melbourne, you need to have young people involved in the organisation of it too. In Sydney many of the Limmud Oz committee this year(including the director)I think were under 30 or in their 30s. And all generations attended. Well done Melbourne, on hosting such a successful weekend. I also think the idea of a camp is more appealing to younger people in particular. We did not have many senior people (50’s & 60s)at our Fest. Most were Gen Xers and Gen Ys, with a few youngish families.

  • Very good to see they are running a post-event survey (and a well-designed one, no less). Hopefully that will lead to some useful research which will tell us WHY people do or don’t go to these events, and how to make them more attractive to a wider audience. Perhaps the organizers should also consider researching non-attendees in the target market before planning the next one of these?

  • Sol Salbe says:

    One of the best things about LimmudOz 2010 was the incredibly varied fare with a great variety views offered. This also covered by Galus. Can we have some idea of the range provided in the more recent event, please?

  • Ittay says:

    To Sol and all the others who unfortunately missed out on Limmud Oz Fest, you can have a look at the program that was on offer here:

    Having attended several limmud’s in both Australia and New Zealand over the past decade, I have to say that I found Limmud Oz Fest to be particularly refreshing for three reasons.
    1. More than half those in attendance were under 30. Together with the camping/live-in nature of the accommodation, the weekend had the feel of a youth movement camp for grownups. The fact that it was run entirely by volunteers, aIso made it a beautiful example of living out a vision of Limmud that is a based around the idea that everyone has something valuable to contribute (Or as Ben Zoma says, “mikol melamdai hiskalti”)
    2. The inclusive nature of all the programming,. From the variety of Shabbat services (orthodox, orthodox-egalitarian, renewal and secular) to the havdala options (from traditional to aboriginal smoking ceremony) Limmud was a living embodiment of the slogan “there’s more than one way to be Jewish”
    3. Finally, due to what I think was a deliberate intention in the nature of the international guests invited (and because two of the keynote speakers cancelled at the last minute) there were very few sessions on Israel and the Holocaust. Instead, there were far more sessions on issues around social justice, Jewish identity, history, and culture. It was a nice change of pace.

    Yishar Koach to all who made it happen
    Shabbat Shalom

  • Anne Sarzin says:

    As an inter-state presenter who has previously participated in several Limmud Oz festivals in both Melbourne and Sydney, the fact that this Limmud Oz Fest was predominantly attended by young participants made it a special experience for me. Those attending my session on connections between Jewish and Indigenous communities –co-presented with Dr Howard Goldenberg–were focused, enthusiastic and insightful, asking a range of penetrating questions around the topic of social justice. At other sessions I attended on the day, I was impressed with the quality of the speakers and panellists, the lively debates and contributions from the floor, and the general spirit of friendship and enjoyment. It was a worthwhile and memorable experience.

  • Ittay says:

    I have just arrived back in London after spending an amazing week of learning, socialising and celebrating all things jewish at Limmud UK which was held at Warwick University. I was chatting to Daphni Leef from Israel in the bar the other night, and she said she had never felt as Jewish as she did at Limmud. I said to her, what do you mean, you live in Israel? You started a social protest movement that mobilised half a million people for social justice. She replied by saying that in Israel people aren’t openly proud to be jewish in a non-religious way like they in Limmud. Limmud is also probably to only place in England where someone could ask, what day is it today? on December 25th

    One of the things that impressed me most about Limmud in the UK was the professionalism and smoothness of the event. In my previous experience of attending things run by volunteers, the people running the event don’t always know exactly what they are doing. At limmud, the desire of the volunteers from the YADs (youth who volunteer for 4 hours a day) to the chairs to make sure everyone was having a good time and getting the most out of limmud was second to none. In fact, the only part of limmud which was a bit ordinary was the food, and that was run by professionals.
    If matan torah were to occur again in our lifetime, it would happen at Limmud, our generations Sinai 2.0.

    Achad Ha’am once said, more than the Jewish people have kept the shabbat, shabbat has kept the Jewish people. I think the same can be said of Limmud.
    May it continue to grow from strength to strength in Australia and the rest of the world.

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