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Volunteering builds leadership and community spirit, Limmud study shows

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Independent research shows that when done right, adult Jewish education can offer a lot more than knowledge.
by YAAKOV SCHWARTZ | Jun 07, 2018

The Limmud Impact Study 2018, released on 5 June, shows that volunteer-based educational programmes can foster a sense of community and leadership outside the classroom.

“The impact of this study is not limited to Limmud,” the study’s author, Dr Keith Kahn-Harris, told The Times of Israel. Based in London, Kahn-Harris is a senior lecturer at Leo Baeck College, and runs the European Jewish Research Archive at the Institute of Jewish Policy Research. He has also been a regular at Limmud conferences since 1996.

“What this shows for other organisations and the Jewish community more broadly is that creating a community around volunteering is really important,” Kahn-Harris said.

According to the study, volunteers reported improving their connections with other Jews. Eighty-four percent of respondents said that Limmud helped them make new friends, while 82% said that it enabled them to meet Jews different from themselves. Sixty-eight percent said that the volunteer-based organisation, which holds multiple-day international learning conferences, deepened their sense of connection to the Jewish people.

Researchers polled more than 500 volunteers from Limmud, whose non-denominational model has sprouted local offshoots around the globe since its establishment in the UK in 1980. According to the study, the annual UK conference attracts 2 500 participants, and Limmud programmes internationally attract more than 40 000 people each year. Significantly, the research showed that volunteering with Limmud encouraged a new generation of Jewish leaders. Fifty-five percent said that involvement with Limmud bolstered their leadership skills, and an equal number reported that it boosted their confidence.

A full 20% said that being involved with Limmud led them to establish a new Jewish initiative or organisation.

According to the impact study’s adviser, Dr Ezra Kopelowitz, the Chief Executive of Research Success Technologies in Israel, “most Jewish learning opportunities are provided by the religious or communal establishments and occur in small homogeneous groups in formal settings.

But, according to Limmud chair David Hoffman, his organisation’s adult learning initiative “impacts equally on Jews regardless of denominational identity, religious practice, or gender. Limmud has the greatest impact within a diverse community”.

Kahn-Harris agrees that in addition to bring driven by volunteers – “Limmud in the UK only has a skeleton professional staff diverse age groups also play a role in its efficacy.

“Focusing solely on young people is not a good strategy. Limmud volunteer communities may be most sustainable and effective when they are multi-generational.”

 “[Limmud] does not necessarily change the way one practices Judaism and defines oneself Jewishly,” the study says. But, it “may change the nature of engagement with Jewish life in profound ways.”

The study also claims that “Limmud may play a vital role in maintaining Jewish practice into the future.”

The survey queried volunteers from the United States, Argentina, Bulgaria, Israel, Germany, Hungary, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, and was conducted in six languages.

It was funded by The Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation and UJA-Federation of New York. In addition to online questionnaires, it also got its information from focus groups and informal discussions in Israel and the UK.

(Times of Israel)

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