By Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News

After a two-year hiatus, Limmud Chicago is returning with a new format for its effort to bring people of all backgrounds and ages together for Jewish learning and community.

A retreat is planned for Aug. 24-27, at the Perlman Retreat Center at Camp Beber in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.

Costs are not finalized yet, but it is estimated to be less than $500 for the learning experience, said Ilana Emmett, conference co-chair. Her co-chair is Robyn Schneider.

Limmud, from the Hebrew word meaning “to learn,” is dedicated to Jewish learning in all its variety. The organization has a global reputation for creating events that are lively and inspired and led and run by volunteers.

To get a sense of what Limmud Chicago is like in a casual setting, join the group at Milt’s Extra Innings from 6-8 p.m. Monday, April 16 for ‘Heading South: Israel’s future in the Negev,’ a conversation led by Schneider of American Associates of Ben Gurion University. Come learn about developments in Israel’s Negev desert, an area that makes up 60 percent of the land but has less than 10 percent of Israel’s population.

Limmud took off two years to regroup, Emmett said about the annual Chicago conference, which began in 2010. “We decided to do a retreat type model. We’re really excited to do something different.”

The retreat will be wide open combining Jewish text, Jewish education, Jewish culture, music and food and even have a program for kids. In years past, there have been 50 or more sessions. In 2018, there will be 80 to 100 sessions, five to eight at a time, Emmett said.

Emmett said “we’re also looking to have three to five taste of Limmud events around the city in the months leading up to the conference. Our plan is to have at least one that is theater-based/performance and at least one that is more Jewish text focused.” 

The outreach for participants and volunteers is extending beyond Chicago to points mid-west, Emmett said. The organization has been rebranded Limmud Chicago + MW. “We’re talking to people all over the region from Michigan to Des Moines, Iowa City, Milwaukee, Madison and St. Louis.”

Emmett says she stays involved with Limmud because “it gives me a great sense of community.” She has spent a lot of time in Limmud’s Jewish learning environment in Philadelphia and the U.K.

There is a specific emphasis toward reaching out to the unaffiliated, Emmett said. “We help them find an ad hoc community.”

Limmud started in the early 1980s in England as an activity for Jews during the Christmas holiday week, when not much else was going on. It has spread around the world with 88 cities on six continents holding Limmud programs.

Those interested can register in May at Right now join an email list at to keep in touch and to RSVP for the free event at Milt’s Extra Innings.

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