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Amidst the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, dozens of Jews recently gathered to learn the art of Israeli cooking and discuss the future of the Jewish community in India. These activities might seem unlikely for a tiny Jewish community in a predominantly Hindu country. But through a Jewish Federation-supported program, the Jews of Mumbai had the opportunity to celebrate Indian and global Jewish culture.
These workshops and many more were part of Mumbai’s inaugural daylong Limmud, a volunteer-driven informal Jewish learning conference. Limmud was organized by 10 volunteers and a staff member from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a Jewish Federation partner agency, and held at Mumbai’s JDC-supported Jewish community center.
The decision to bring the internationally renowned event to Mumbai and its 4,000 Jews started more than 3,000 miles away—in China. Four Indians attended that country’s first Limmud, in Shanghai, and returned home inspired and committed to bringing Limmud to Mumbai.
Seven months later, the event came to fruition. For just 300 rupees (about $5), attendees –120 adults and 30 children, ranging in age from 4 to 80—were able to choose from eight different 45-minute workshops on a variety of topics, from Krav Maga, an Israel form of self-defense, to panel discussions on successful Jews in business. Children learned about Jewish heroes and studied Hebrew in a parallel Young Limmud.
For organizer Nurith Samuel, the JCC was the obvious event venue. “The JCC is the center and anchor of our Jewishness in a multicultural city like Mumbai. The JCC is a place of many firsts for me personally, a place where I began my journey of discovering my Jewish identity, a place where I’ve made some lifelong pals, a place that nurtured an awkward teenager into a young Jewess ready to take on the world,” she said. “There could be no better place than the JCC and no more supportive a partner than JDC to launch the first-ever Limmud in India.”
Given Limmud’s success, Samuel and other organizers are hopeful that it will become an annual event.
“As part of the small Bene Israeli community in Mumbai, I have come to value the idea of being responsible for others and hope that at the end of Limmud India some participants came to value this idea, too,” said Samuel.