This is a time of year that I dread, when I have to write about my three days at LimmudLA, a smorgasbord of everything Jewish. It’s like trying to squeeze 10 or 12 columns into one.
Every class or event that I attended at LimmudLA was worthy of a separate story, whether it was Rabbi Michael Melchior’s outrage at the conversion process in Israel; Yoni Arbel, a student from Milken Community High School, telling us about the Jewish influence in jazz music; historian and BJE Executive Director Gil Graff mesmerizing us with the 12 questions that Napoleon used to challenge the loyalty of the Jewish community of France a couple of centuries ago; people lining up outside the Biale Rebbe’s hotel room to receive his blessings; storyteller Einat Lahav-Weitzman sharing her “chicken casserole for the soul”; Rabbi Ed Feinstein giving us the real scoop about the birth of Zionism; or simply the idea that a few hundred Jews were singing and dancing at the entrance of an Orange County hotel on a Saturday night during the Havdalah ceremony.
There was just too much going on.
At Limmud, Melchior spoke of disputed conversions and of finding ways to talk to the Jews in the settlements. The Torah teaches that we should befriend those who want to be Jews, he pointed out, and yet in recent years, ultra-Orthodox leaders in Israel, adopting the most narrow and stringent standards of Jewish law, or halachah, have been annulling many conversions, even some Orthodox ones. In doing so, they have stripped converted Jews of essential rights, including the right to marry in Israel. After rabbis annulled one woman