By Julia Dandolova

Over the past 10 years, Limmud Keshet here in Bulgaria has changed significantly. Every year, we see more and more sessions but what’s more important is that every year more and more volunteers want to be a part of Limmud.

People understand the meaning of “community” even better than they did 10 years ago, too. The faces in the conference halls of Limmud are no longer new, people are no longer strangers, and even if people don’t know each other, that wouldn’t stop them from sitting at the same table for lunch and starting a conversation. That’s not something that was common 10 years ago.

This year, Limmud was attended by about 600 people. About 170 of them were children under the age of 18. There were children’s programs all day and all night long, so parents could attend sessions and workshops, or even just mingle with one another.

For the second year in a row, there was a special “Tikkun Olam” initiative. There were three options for participants to choose from. About 150 people spread into the mountains, with some clearing a mountain path and others painting signs for the trail. A third group of about 30 teenagers went to an orphanage, where they spent half a day playing with the kids. They also brought board games that many Limmud participants brought as gifts in advance.

The Shabbat atmosphere, though unique, has also become a Limmud tradition. Whether it’s a mother who wants to show her daughter how to do it, or a grandfather proud of what he sees, people really anticipate the moment of candle-lighting. Whether or not it’s a tradition people do at their homes every week, they always look forward to the moment they can do it together at Limmud.

Havdallah has also become one of the most powerful moments of the event, as it’s not too frequent that 600 people come together to sing a prayer. This year, Havdallah was even more special as it marked the transition from Shabbat to a gala devoted to Limmud’s 10th anniversary. Gymnastics, singing, and dancing marked the end of the 10th Limmud Keshet Bulgaria with a lot of emotion.

Just before leaving the conference, during a feedback session, a young family shared with me that they were thrilled by their first Limmud experience.

“We expected to be on a holiday and maybe attend a couple of sessions, but instead are leaving more tired than we came because we didn’t want to miss anything,” the father said. “The program was amazing. We made new friends, and our daughter was also happy with the children’s program. It felt like it went by so quickly.”

He and his wife have already signed up as volunteers for next year’s session.

Julia Dandolova is JDC’s country director in Bulgaria.