On “Bible, yoga, and Youtube”

With LimmudLA as the jumping off point, Get Religion has waded into the Jewish culture scene, by asking if Michelle Citrin’s “Rosh Hashanah Girl” video counts as “CJM, ‘Contemporary Jewish Music.’” The author’s missed the point so many times in this post, I can hardly keep track. It’s contemporary, it’s Jewish, and it’s music. So what part of “CJM” is it missing? I don’t think something has to be deeper or explicitly spiritual to be CJM. (And, fo’ real, who uses the term ‘CJM’?)

But that’s not the focus of the post.

He’s disappointed that opposing views weren’t included in an LA Times article about LimmudLA. He claims that LimmudLA is all about “flexidoxy”, borrowing a term form an article he wrote back in 2001. He doesn’t seem to understand that there can be pluralistic, trans-denominational Jewish settings that welcome people regardless of affiliation, and attempt to offer something for people from every/no denomination.

I found it interesting that the Los Angeles Times piece didn’t include any Jewish voices — right or left — that were uncomfortable with the LimmudLA approach. At the same time, it’s clear that the doctrinal differences are right there up front in this conference, with the only question being whether people are truly allowed to agree to disagree. There is that “God” thing, after all.

Um, what? I admit I haven’t been to LimmudLA, but I have been to LimmudNY a few times. The whole idea is pluralism, “Jews of all stripes.” Chances are, those who disagree with a pluralistic Jewish space won’t attend Limmud in the first place. But at an event that makes strives to be inclusive to all, I had great conversations, learned with and from, and prayed beside Jews from a wide variety of backgrounds and practices. It was lovely. There are thousands of Jews going to Limmuds every year around the globe, and I’m guessing some would identify with a “right or left” voice. (Is this a linear model of denominations? Do I also have to argue with the author about why and how this is inaccurate?)

Bottom line, I enjoy reading the Get Religion blog. But I don’t understand why we should be disappointed that the LA Times didn’t try harder to find conflict, which clearly wasn’t there. (If you were at LimmudLA, I’d love to hear about it. Please tell us about it in the comments!)

Filed under Media, Pluralism, West Coast

6 Responses to “On “Bible, yoga, and Youtube””

  1. I think there’s little controversy with the Limmud model because there’s so much excitement around something that is mostly devoid of controversy. Lots of Jews, together, hugging; it’s gotta be cutting edge and great.

    But my criticism of Limmud (I’ve only been to Limmud NY once) is that it’s kind of contrived and may or may not be the grassroots-led initiative it claims to be. Certainly there’s a lot of lay energy employed in it, that’s for sure. But I can’t shake the creepy feeling up my spine that it’s imposed from above by the big funders. Pardon my skepticism, it’s just my nature.

    People are welcome to elucidate me. And as I said, I’ve only been once.


    Kung Fu Jew · February 24th, 2009 at 9:35 pm
  2. KFJ: Exactly how “grassroots” can something with nearly 1000 participants be even if it was started in a grassroots way? (as Limmud was, to my understanding) That number refers to LimmudNY, fwiw… not LA. But have you ever been to something that was more organized than the Rainbow Gathering and had 1000 participants yet was legitimately what you could call “grassroots”? I ask that in all seriousness because I’m curious if such an animal exists.

    Feygele: I’m with you. I fail to see any controversy in the Limmud model. Not that it’s above any possibility of questioning or criticism. But it IS multidenominational, it IS welcoming of people who are of any denomination or none at all, and there IS something for almost anyone. It actually delivers on those promises in a way that most events do not. There is little to find offensive in it, unless perhaps you are of a certain school of liberal Jew who doesn’t even want to have to be around (let alone accommodate) Orthodox Jews, or an Orthodox Jew who feels that way about religiously liberal Jews. But that’s not who the event is for, now is it? So it’s a moot point. The writer completely doesn’t get what “flexidox” means, what Limmud is about, or what non-denominational/multi-denominational Jewish community looks like. He isn’t Jewish and clearly hasn’t spent much time in multidenominational Jewish spaces. His post comes across as out of touch.


    Tovah · February 24th, 2009 at 11:31 pm
  3. I was at LimmudUK this December and sat in on sessions in the ‘bring Limmud home’ track. I met volunteers who are on various parts of various committees to make it happen. The vibe there is very interesting- sure there is a dedicated team of people making sure it all happens, but it is remarkably grassroots, there is a remarkable and infectious sense of for-us-by-us there. The ‘slick’ production elements, if one can call them that, like concerts and materials, are less so than any conference I’ve attended.

    The vibe is that Limmud belongs to no one but those who attend and participate. The core committee is large and undoubtedly grassroots, and from talking to various limmudnikim from the US, the point that was driven home was that the success of any Limmud relies on the health of its volunteer base. Volunteers (or volunticipants) drive the marketing, the infrastructure, even the funding. Relatively few of the familiar foundations back the various Limmud conferences.

    Case in point about infectiousness- while there I befriended two relatively accultured, assimilated unaffiliated since Bar Mitzvah 30 something hipsters from Manchester and Brighton. The came to Limmud on a whim with little to do over holiday.

    They didn’t quite get it at first, given all the paradoxes. 2500 people, but grassroots. Diverse in every way yet still mostly Jews. The diversity of the programs and the non-conformity to an agenda. So much structure to the program guide and so many offerings, yet in addition to all those choices of what to attend, you could also not attend and just hang out and have good conversation.

    By the end of conference, these two both signed up to be on committees in their respective cities. It is that grassroots. From our perspective, its hard to find much wrong with it. Its the inverse of imposed on from on high, really. I clearly have consumed the cool-aid, but is the very cool-aid we’d like community organizations and institutions to drink.


    adam davis · February 25th, 2009 at 11:20 pm
  4. I’m sorry, I don’t understand… can someone explain what these events are all about? Jews from different levels of observance coming together to talk? To the uninitiated, it seems like a multi-level marketing scheme, where the whole point is to just keep growing, but I don’t see the punchline.

    I’m not trying to put it down. Anything that brings Jews together has a lot of potential – I just don’t understand the role these gatherings serve. Anyone?


    Victor · February 26th, 2009 at 3:28 am
  5. Victor – It’s a Jewish learning event. Lots of Jews come together, there are a million workshops offered on a million different topics (mostly Jewish related, obviously)… Many different davening (prayer) options… Entertainment, opportunities to meet people, etc. It’s not about growing for the sake of growing, it’s just about people having a multi-denominational and largely non-hierarchical place to teach and learn. Since many of us live in very movement-segregated Jewish communities, this is a big deal. I’ve learned a lot, studied Torah with some amazing Rabbis and non-rabbis, been on a panel, and met a lot of new friends at LimmudNY. The goal as I understand it is nothing but building community and increasing learning opportunities without being coercive or movement-affiliated.


    Tovah · February 26th, 2009 at 1:01 pm
  6. That sounds pretty cool. As long as it’s not abused by some groups for political programs, it actually sounds like something I would want to do.


    Victor · February 26th, 2009 at 8:19 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik