Coventry, England — A group which encourages Jews to oppose the Israeli occupation has sparked a lively debate at its debut session at the 2012 Limmud Conference on Jewish life and identity.
Yachad, which was founded in 2010, “aims to discuss the occupation not with the outside world, but within Jewish communities,” the group’s chairman, Daniel Reisel, told listeners at a lecture on Dec. 23, the conference’s opening.
Organizers said some 2,500 Jews from across the world are attending the conference, which is hosted by the University of Warwick and combines lectures and workshops on topics ranging from politics and religion to Jewish music and cinema.
Reisel and Yachad Director Hannah Weisfeld said Israel needs to cede land in order to remain Jewish and democratic. Their arguments drew critical remarks from a skeptical audience, with some listeners arguing such concessions would encourage terrorism.
Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based watchdog, led a different session elsewhere, where he invited listeners to critically examine Israeli-Arab peace initiatives and “the peace industry.”
On the cultural front, the American-Jewish reggae performer Matisyahu and artist Jacqueline Nicholls are scheduled to be interviewed on stage by philosopher Sam Lebens. In another collaboration, the Jewish, African-American hip-hop artist Y Love will share the stage with the British-Jewish playwright Robbie Gringras.
Some non-British Limmud enthusiasts are attending the conference in order to “learn from the diversity and level of professionalism that Limmud U.K. has reached,” according to Erika Siegfrid-Tompson of Limmud Hungary.
Her branch of Limmud International is one of 60 groups from 26 countries, which are carrying on the Limmud Conference tradition that started in the U.K. 30 years ago.