Refilling My Spice Box at Limmud

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Chana Karmann-Lente is a rabbi in Germany, and founder of Hamburg’s Masorti community, Kehilat Beit Shira, and Machon Aviv, a Jewish learning initiative. Chana promotes the religious empowerment of women and is a vice chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall. Currently, she specializes in Halacha and mediation.

It is almost the end of January 2015, and yet I still feel like just having returned from Limmud. For the second time, I had the chance—thanks to an ROI Micro Grant—to participate in this great conference, and again the experience has a lasting positive impact on my mood, on my energy, and on my creativity in making plans for my future work.

Most important has been my encounter with Daniel Roth, director of the "Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution (PCJCR)" a new center within the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. Since mediation and conflict management is currently one of the main areas of my professional specialization, I "filtered" the wealth of (1201!) sessions (by 514 presenters) accordingly—and I was delighted to meet an expert such as Daniel Roth. Among other valuable learnings, he introduced me to the idea of marking the 9th of Adar as the "Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict". I clearly see the importance of such an endeavor for Klal Yisrael, and for me personally it's a special challenge where my interest in mediation and my rabbinic work do meet. Next month, this global event will take place for the second time, and this year, Germany will have a place on the map—and I would be happy to maintain an ongoing working relationship with Daniel Roth and the PCJCR.

Yet there were more highlights at this year's conference, and I collected them like spices for my Bessamim box. For example: The sessions with Yaffa Epstein on humans creating holiness, and on the Orthodox-feminist approach to Talmud study. Marc Soloway introducing his teacher Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and taking us on a pilgrimage to the Old World of Chassidic masters in "Treasure under the Bridge." Shaul Robinson on the question of who is making Jewish law today. Two other teachers were also presenting very uplifting sessions: Elliott Malamet and Asher Lopatin, whom I both met for the first time in person at this conference. Elliott Malamet, from "Torah in Motion," provided a close look on the possibilities of self transformation, and in other classes analyzed the problem of evil and suffering—practicing a great way of balanced and thought-provoking teaching. Asher Lopatin (president of the Modern Orthodox rabbinical school "Yeshivat Chovevei Torah") examined some interesting re-interpretations of Halacha, e.g. in the Aruch HaShulchan. Unfortunately, I couldn't attend more of his sessions this year, but I can hardly wait to study with him again at future events.

In addition to enjoying learning, my daily fix points were the morning prayers with our Masorti Minyan—and the "Skills Lab," where I taught Ta'amei HaMikra, Torah Cantillation (Trope), in four sessions. This was a big challenge and a great chance to get creative. While I normally do this in a one-to-one setting or in a small group, I now had to take into consideration a bigger group of unknown size. For this reason, I developed a kind of digital workbook that got projected onto a big screen, so that no one would lose track. This method proved to be very successful, and as soon as time allows, I will develop it further, and extend it to other areas as well. If you are interested in having a workshop in your community, you are welcome to contact me at [email protected]

I am very thankful to Lynn Schusterman and ROI for supporting me again with a “Go Network!” Micro Grant, enabling me to retie, strengthen and enlarge my Limmud-based international network—and to refill my spice box for another year!