Barry and Barbara Skarf of Southfield study as a pair at Limmud 2016
Barry and Barbara Skarf of Southfield study as a pair at Limmud 2016

Organizers of Limmud Michigan, a one-day Jewish educational experience for the entire community, are building on the success of last year’s inaugural effort in Ann Arbor. They hope attendance at the Sunday, March 19, event will surpass last year’s 465 participants.

This year’s program will be held at the new Student Center at Wayne State University. The steering team promises something for people of all ages and at every level of Jewish knowledge and observance.

“More than 90 percent of last year’s participants who responded to a survey said they were extremely or very satisfied with the program, and the narrative comments were over the top,” said Irv Goldfein of Southfield, a member of the 17-member steering committee.

“So much to learn, so little time!” said Wendy Robins of Huntington Woods. “An awesome day of learning and community. I can’t wait for March 19.”

Sharon Levine of Oak Park agreed. “It was absolutely an amazing day of learning and being with friends, some we hadn’t seen in years.”

At this year’s Limmud Michigan, approximately 60 presentations, most by participants from Southeast Michigan, will be grouped into six tracks: Israel, arts and culture, text and thought, body and soul, identity and community.

Participants can attend up to six sessions and enjoy a kosher box lunch from Chef Cari.

Event Origins

Limmud, a Hebrew word meaning “learning,” got its start in the early 1980s in England. Its goals and philosophy have spread around the world, with 85 cities on six continents now holding local Limmud programs.

Sue Birnholtz of Sylvan Lake, one of the Limmud Michigan co-chairs, spent the last week of 2016 at LimmudUK, considered “the mother ship” by Limmud organizers.

Held in Birmingham, England, LimmudUK attracted 2,800 participants. Birnholtz met other Limmud organizers from Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Mexico, South America, India and Israel and returned with lots of ideas.

This year’s Limmud Michigan will emphasize support for young Jewish adults who live in Detroit, Goldfein said.

Panels will include “J-Tot,” with three Jewish parents who are raising young children in the city; “It’s Just Business,” with Jews who are involved in Detroit-based businesses, particularly in the food industry; and “Engagement Without Affiliation,” which will look at a new paradigm of Jewish identity.

Out-of-town presenters include Rabbi Michael Rothbaum of Bend the Arc, a Jewish partnership for justice, and his husband, African-American Yiddish opera singer Anthony Russell. The Oakland, Calif.-based duo will lead a session called “Ferguson and Fergessen.”

Yaffa Epstein, director of education for North America for the Jerusalem-based Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, a popular speaker last year, will return. A presentation by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, the first woman to serve as president of the Toronto Board of Rabbis, is sponsored by the Covenant Foundation.

Well-known local presenters include artist Lynne Avadenka, Wayne State philosophy professor Justin Sledge, Avalon Bakery founder Jackie Victor, Howard Lupovitch from the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at WSU, and more than a dozen local rabbis of various denominations.

Goldfein said the planners had more proposals than they could accommodate. It was hard to turn down proposals, he said, but the organizers aimed to balance the program not only by topic, but also by the presenter’s age and affiliation. They also strove for geographic diversity, with speakers from University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University as well as from the Detroit area.

“I’m particularly excited we will continue Camp Limmud for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade,” said Mira Sussman, an Ann Arbor social worker who co-chairs the Limmud Michigan steering team. The program will be staffed by counselors from Habonim Camp Tavor in Michigan. “The kids who went to Camp Limmud last year loved it,” she said. “My kids didn’t want to leave.”


Limmud Michigan has received generous grants from the William Davidson Foundation and the Farber Foundation.

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s Alliance for Jewish Education is providing in-kind donations, including tote bags for participants and program book printing.

The Institute for Retired Professionals (IRP) of the Jewish Community Center is coordinating inexpensive bus transportation to Wayne State from Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield. (Participants who choose to drive will find convenient parking near the Student Center.)

Hazon Detroit will help make Limmud Michigan a “no waste” event, providing guidelines for maximum recycling and arranging for donation of leftover food to organizations that feed the hungry.

More than 450 people registered to learn at Limmud 2016 in Ann Arbor

“The joy of Limmud is that it brings the entire community together,” Birnholtz said. “At any presentation, you can be sitting next to an Orthodox person on one side and an atheist on the other, and everyone will learn. Wherever you find yourself, Limmud will take you one step further on your Jewish journey.”

Sussman said many people have already told her they plan to sign up, without even knowing what the presentations will be. “That, to me, means there is a huge thirst for alternative Jewish education and experiences for people of all ages, backgrounds and levels of Jewish knowledge,” she said.

Joining Birnholtz and Sussman on the Limmud Michigan steering team are Leslie Black, Roger Black and Miriam Starkman, all of Farmington Hills; Geulah Finman, Ruby Robinson and Vicki Sitron, all of Detroit; Irv Goldfein of Southfield, Karla Goldman, Davey Rosen, Deirdre Hirschtritt and Clara Silver, all of Ann Arbor; Vicki Goldsmith of Novi; Sandy Lada of Bloomfield Hills; and Howard Lupovitch and Rabbi Steven  Rubenstein, both of West

Participants can register for the Sunday, March 19, event on the Limmud Michigan website,

Also check out the Facebook page, Limmud Michigan.

Registration for students is $18. Early-bird adult registration, at $25, ends Feb. 24. After that, registration will be $36 per person. Limmud Michigan is looking for additional donations, which can be made via the website or by contacting Irv Goldfein at

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