1 September 2022
Presenting at Limmud is a joy…
You never know WHO you’re going to meet when you present a session! Read on to discover the favourite Limmud teaching memories of Alma Reisel – a life-long Limmudnik, feminist, family social worker, and Jewish educator.
What was your motivation the first time you taught at Festival?
I first ‘taught’ at Limmud when I was 19, that year I facilitated Chavruta. I was supposed to be facilitating a table for teenagers as part of my volunteering for Limmud which made attendance more affordable, and working with teenagers felt within my realm of skills as a youth leader. I had dutifully studied the Chavruta book with my dad in advance so that really, the teenagers would get the benefit of his wisdom rather than my own. On the day however, there weren’t enough teenagers, but there were too many adults, and so I was thrust into the world of adult education for the very first time! Terrifying and wonderful.
The legacies of that year’s teaching experience were many – I facilitated Chavruta for the next 5 years or so, each year studying in advance with different wonderful people including both my parents, friends, and the very special Maureen Kendler. There were a few people on my table that first year who became regulars with me, and I felt very touched by their commitment and confidence in me as a teacher, which gave me the confidence to also offer sessions in the main program. On that first day, someone came and sat at my table whose bio I’d read in the handbook, and in my head, I willed him to go and study with one of the many ‘real’ Jewish educators sitting nearby.
However, he stayed, we became friends, did some learning together, fell in love and now have two little Limmudniks to bring with us to Festivals for years to come. I’m glad he didn’t go and learn with one of the real educators after all!
Do you think your teachings have made an impact?
I hope so! I’ve taught a mix of sessions related to my passions – LGBT inclusion, literature, feminism, systemic family therapy, and some connecting all of those! They tend to draw slightly different crowds, but I think each have made an impact. The sessions I delivered with Keshet UK, the charity working so that no one has to choose between their Jewish and their LGBT identity have been some of the most important I’ve done, and I like to think that the Jewish community is a better place for our work, at Limmud and beyond.
What is your favourite memory of a session you presented at Festival?
Too many! I’ll pick two – firstly seeing my friend and teacher Yaffa Epstein smiling at me as I delivered my first proper grown up Limmud session on my own comparing 17th-century Christian poetry to the Yom Kippur liturgy. Teaching your teachers is a special experience, I recommend it!
Secondly a session for the 8 year olds at Young Limmud alongside Sam Grant who was then working for René Cassin. We did a session on modern-day slavery and one of the children, the son of a long-term Limmud Exec volunteer asked ‘but my mum does hours and hours of work for Limmud, and she’s never paid anything, she even pays to come here! Is she a Limmud slave?’
What is the most creative session you ever attended?
I absolutely love the creativity in Judy Klitsner’s Torah teaching. The way she identifies and brings together different patterns in the text, across stories, finding allusions and echoes, playing with words and phrases, and deepening our understanding and relationship to Torah. It’s an experience of beauty.
I’m also grateful to Mekella Bromberg who introduced me to the format of a Pecha Kucha, a way of doing short presentations which is highly structured and visual, and within its bounds enables creativity to flourish. We did a session presenting Pecha Kuchas on our Jewish relationships with feminism alongside spoken word poet Leah Thorn. One of my favourites!
Would you like to share some tips for presenters – new and not-so-new – who will be teaching this year?
Teaching at Limmud is a joy – enjoy it! Also, one of the wonderful things about Limmud is, unless you are the one and only world-expert in whatever you’re teaching on, there is probably someone in the room who will know more than you about the topic you’re presenting. Embrace that, it’s part of the fun!! And don’t spend the whole day preparing for your session, there are too many wonderful experiences to have at Limmud, the session will be fine.
Limmud Festival 2022 is coming up fast! You can embark on this magical journey with us… and you can even steer the boat by stepping up and teaching!
Registration for Limmud Festival 2022 will open in mid-September. Watch out for announcements and get in early to guarantee your place!
You can let us know that you are interested in presenting when you register, and we will need you to complete the presenting registration forms by 16 October.
At Limmud, everyone is a student, and anyone can be a teacher. All participants can submit session proposals and feature in the final programme. No need for an invitation or to ask for permission!
We know that preparing a 50-minute lecture can be quite challenging. Luckily, there are lots of other formats which you could adopt if you want to appear on stage at Festival. Here are a few ideas:
Panel discussions are a great format to explore complex questions, by putting forward a variety of positions in a given topic. Robin Moss, a veteran Limmudnik and serial panel host, recommends “having a minimum of 3 panellists, each with a unique perspective”, as well as “a strong chair, who is a subject expert at least to some degree and respected by the Limmud audience”.
There are some common mistakes which can easily be avoided. For instance, you don’t need each panellist to answer every question. By asking only one or two panellists to answer any given question, you’re giving more time for new questions from the audience, making the session more engaging overall.
In terms of timing, divide the session in half – we recommend allocating 25 minutes to questions from the chair (shared with the panellists ahead of the event) and 25 minutes to those from the audience. The first half will likely overrun, so you’ll be glad to have 15 minutes left for the Q&A.
Arts & crafts are a staple of Limmud, for those more artistically inclined. There are so many creative options for participants to share their favourite hobbies – or indeed, their professional expertise – with keen Limmudniks!
We recommend keeping the activity simple, as 50 minutes is not very long to plan and execute a crafts project. It’s also worth doing some preparation ahead of time on behalf of the participants attending your session, if possible (for instance, by pre-cutting components).
You can expect a wide range of abilities among those attending your session: some who have artistic expertise in their own right; others who might be trying out the activity for the first time. You can’t spend the whole session assisting the beginnings, so don’t hesitate to lean on the more experienced ones and asking them to share their savoir faire.
If submitting a form for an Arts & Crafts session, our Resources team will purchase all necessary materials on your behalf (within reasonable quantities and limits). If you’ve got high-end accessories, you should probably bring your own, but otherwise we will supply resources for the other participants who join your session. No need to incur any expenses!
Chavruta: Some would say, it can’t be a Jewish learning event without some textual learning! Agree or disagree, Chavruta sessions have been staples of Limmud from the start.
Chavruta is peer-to-peer learning. It involves dividing the participants into pairs so that they can study the text independently. Later on, the whole class regroups and shares their impressions and interpretations.
One of the main keys to a successful chavruta session is to nurture curiosity. Before breaking the class up in pairs, give them some questions to try and answer throughout their study, or write them down on the source sheet for them to keep in mind. When regrouping, encourage as many of them as possible to offer a glimpse of their findings. It’s in the range of individual interpretations that appear that we truly uncover the multivocal nature of the Jewish textual tradition!
Stand-up & performance
Performances (of any kind) require a special atmosphere and some specific arrangements. Our seasoned comedian, Rachel Creeger, recommends thinking about the experience from two points of view: the performers and the audience.
Performers (including yourself, potentially!) need the right conditions set in order to shine. Where will they stand? Will they need a table, a glass of water, or some props? What kind of lighting, if any, is necessary to create the right atmosphere? How do they want to be introduced?
A similar set of questions concerns the audience. Playing the right kind of music when they enter and exit the room can help create the right atmosphere for them to laugh or sing along. The seat layout also has an impact on their interactions with the performers – is a cabaret or a theatre style better suited to this session?
Rachel adds: “everyone’s time at Festival is precious. People enter, decide after two minutes it’s not for them, and leave. It’s not personal! If they decide it’s appropriate, they’ll text their friend or spouse and encourage them to join. Some will leave early to avoid clashes with other sessions. People will eat and drink during the show.” We recommend being prepared for all these scenarios!
Finally, don’t forget to thank the performers, the volunteer technicians, and the audience. In each role, they all play a part in making Limmud Festival happen and deserve recognition!
Families: Participants of all ages attend Festival – from toddlers to centenarians! So why not consider offering sessions which caters to these different age groups?
Family sessions can be the hardest to plan for, given the nature of the audience. It’s often best to come up with multiple session ideas as a result, and be prepared to change the whole direction half-way through if you see things aren’t quite going according to plan.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that there are two audiences: parents and children. The key to a successful family session, therefore, is to maximize the interactions (and indeed, the quality of the interactions) between both audiences and ensure they all leave having achieved, experienced, or learned something.
Social Programming: Last, but definitely not least! Whether it involves a pub quiz, pyjama party, speed dating, pilates, professional networking, meditation, jogging, disco, social singing, or anything out of the box – social programming is a key element of what attracts thousands of participants to Limmud every year! Anyone can take the initiative and submit a form to conduct a session of this kind. People will love it!
And similarly to the Arts & crafts session, there’s no need for you to incur any expenses while preparing the session! Limmud’s Resources team can supply equipment (within reasonable limits) to help bring your social experience to life!
We can’t wait to welcome you on 23-28th December and together, make giant new strides on our Jewish journeys!
Our Programming team is here to help if you have any questions regarding sessions you’d like to offer. Please contact Ezra at email@example.com
Ezra Margulies, Limmud Exec Programming Chair