For as long as I can remember, I’ve been hooked on learning, especially Jewish learning. My first stumbling steps toward reading Hebrew led to a fascination with our people’s living ancient/modern language. Fortunately, my parents supported my desire to go to Camp Ramah, which in the 1950s immersed youth in eight weeks of Hebrew as the language of everyday conversation, prayer, and song.
Our rabbi, Harry Z. Zwelling, z”l, encouraged me to become a bat mitzvah and made no distinction between what girls and boys could do, which was unusual at that time so soon after the first b’not mitzvah in the Conservative movement. Rabbi Zwelling also invited me to join a small group to study the commentaries of Rashi each Shabbat after services. I credit this teacher with planting and nurturing in me the love of learning biblical text. From classes on the weekly Torah portion to challenging study at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem, this kind of learning has been a lifelong joy.
In my small New England college with a few like-minded Jewish students, we sought out a professor of Bible, Ernest Lacheman. He was an ordained minister and archaeologist who could read Hebrew and Greek. But most wondrous, he read the cuneiform on the pottery tablets and fragments littering his dusty basement office and told us about the ancient Meso- potamian Nuzi civilization. For four years we looked forward to our weekly sessions with him. No course credit, no cost, just the excitement of studying.
Since moving to Baltimore in the 1970s, I’ve become an “equal opportunity” learner. I’ve taken classes at Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist congregations, taught by rabbis and educators from all of these denominations, and I participate every fall in Baltimore’s Adult Institute of Jewish Learning as well as the Institute of Christian and Jewish Studies. Baltimore offers an amazing number of learning opportunities open to all, many at no or minimal cost.
LimmudFEST, a celebration of Jewish study, culture and identity, invites us all to be learners and teachers for a day, to appreciate the diversity of our community and to connect with fellow Jews. Welcoming participants of all backgrounds, levels of knowledge, lifestyles and ages, Limmud’s motto is: “Wherever you are on your Jewish journey, Limmud will take you one step further.”
This is my third year as a Limmud volunteer planner and student. Limmud is like a smorgasbord of appealing dishes to sample, whetting your appetite to learn more. Presentations from Jewish poetry to Jewish composers of classical music have attracted me. This year, I’ll be presenting “Bat Mitzvah: More Than a Day in Our Lives.” Women of all ages are invited to share their stories and reflect on how becoming a bat mitzvah has influenced their Jewish identity (men are also welcome).
Treat yourself to a day of presentations, performances, food and fun at LimmudFEST on Sunday, Sept. 7 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Goucher College Athenaeum. For more information, visit limmudbaltimore.com.
Gail Josephson Lipsitz teaches Jewish literature to adults and previously taught high school and college English. She recently retired as coordinator of public relations at Jewish Community Services in Baltimore.