The Jewish community in France is estimated of 483.500 ( in 2010 ) According to the Jewish Virtual Library - 500.000 According to the Appel Unifie Juif de France, they are found mainly in the Metropolitan Areas of Paris, Marseille, Strasbourg, Lyon, and Toulouse. So when you go to the local Limud, especially from Poland you expect thousands of participants, several lecture rooms, rented student dormitories- in a word, something like Limud in the UK.
I was a little scared by the fact that most of the lectures were to be in French and only one hour in English, which was a problem because I am not very good at French. But I was not only going to attend the lectures but also to promote Jewrnalism, meet the leaders of the French Jewish community and write an article about my experience. At 3 o`clock, on Friday, March the 2nd I got on a Limud bus , which took me to a hotel near Paris.
Entering the lobby with the rest of the guests we were greeted with applause and shouts of Limud staff. It was the first sign that French Limud will not be Limud in the UK. I was afraid that I will perish in the crowd and a nice atmosphere where everyone seems to be treated specially surprised me. It turned out that Limud was attended by approximately 500 people what also surprised me. The organization of the event seemed to be the perfect, lectures, interesting atmosphere were similar as in Poland. This became the subject of my inquiry between English-speaking lectures. I asked about the Jewish community in France and its future. To my surprise it turned out that the Jewish community in France is experiencing similar problems like this in Poland.
In Poland we have so few Jews, thus our programs and events do not seem as spectacular as they could. In France however, there are many French people, that are not interested much in what is happening in their Jewish communities, as if there was no life in them as well as so called Jewish spirit. How is this possible? Assimilation? I do not know maybe some voices from France will explain that in commentaries. Anyway I saw Limud in another dimension. There surely weren`t the people who have nothing to do at the weekend so they were coming to meet and promote themselves, but the future leaders of the French Jewish community, who came to look for inspiration and support.
Shawn Landres and Joshua Avedon from Jewish Jumpstart did not appeared on Limud without a reason, they simply see the future of Jewish life in Europe and try to show it to the Europeans as well as to Americans. Jewish Life in France needs a fresh breeze, the people who will lead the life of the community living there, new entrepreneurs with ideas and courage to prove that Europe can also be the future of this nation. Limud is the beginning, one of the elements but it also shows the power of the new leaders, a place where they can meet , and prove that you can get what you want. Limud in France is being held for about 3 years and every year it brings more success, it’s hard work of the new leaders like Sarah Benkemoun Simha and Ruth Ouazana, who believe in French Jews and the Europe. Hospitability of the leaders concerning people from abroad and taking care of every detail and well-being of each is admirable. I do not know if they realize their great role but I think they deserve great applause and a lot of support from the rest of the foreign organizations like the Jewish Jumpstart.Limud or Limoud ended on Sunday afternoon. All of us were taken to the center of Paris but we weren`t left alone. We spent our last evening in a truly French style.
Now I can only say after Edith Piaf- Limoud in France? - Non, je ne regrette pas rien.