Steffi Karp founded LimmudBoston in 2009, and since then it's been a growing celebration of Jewish culture and lifelong learning. Ten years later, Steffi is stepping away from day-to-day operations. So how does a founder of an event pass the baton without worry?
We learned how their "lowerarchy", community involved approach, has empowered the team to keep things running smoothly. One where there's no hierarchy between speakers and attendees, because, "Even the people who present pay to attend because they might be presenting for an hour, but somebody else might be passing out program books for an hour. And everybody's time is worth the same amount."
The following has been edited for length and clarity. Excerpt begins at 2:40 and continues at 24:20.
Steffi Karp: Everyone is considered a volun-ticipant. Everybody pays to attend but everyone is asked to participate as if they partially own the event. So if something spills for example, it's not my job to go run and find a mop and pail, but I will be happy to tell you where to find said objects so that you can clean up whatever you spilled.
Taylor McKnight: Now, did you have that perspective from day one, or when did that happen?
SK: I did because this is a Limmud. (Limmud means study in Hebrew) Page 2 of our program book every year has the International Limmud values and principles.
The interesting thing was teaching these values to our community because most communities are used to having a festival done for them.
If your group -- I don't know whether it's Beer Lovers or Butterfly Collectors International -- put on a festival you'd have an In Crowd and an Out Crowd. With the In Crowd working really hard and others paying to attend. But with Limmud it's all about bringing everyone together and everyone feeling some ownership. And that's what's really fun this year because I am training the new teams that are taking over.
TM: How do you even begin to teach that to everybody else or write all of these kind of intuitive rules out for somebody else?
SK: Well, you know, there were so many conversations around my dining room table in 2008 when I started talking about this, and everybody is supposed to familiarize themselves with the concept of Limmud International which is based in England. And that's a one week long Jewish conference over Christmas week every year. They have 3,000 people from all over the world. And so we use those values.
When in doubt we just go back to that page 2 of our program book and look at the Limmud values.
If something seems like it's all about just the person, and it doesn't seem like something that's great for the whole community -- go back to the values and say, "Oh, I don't think that's exactly what it's about." Everybody's learned [the values].
It's really nice because then you're not saying, "Oh Steffi said we can't do it because she doesn't want it that way." Instead we're saying, "According to the values of the organization that we're trying to work with, they wouldn't do that one. They would do it in a different way."
TM: It's so fortunate for you all to have those values so clearly codified. I mean, it's really powerful, really solves that conflict and keeps the focus on the mission.
SK: It was a learning experience for me to be able to say, oh, it's not about me making this decision it's about, "Oh the values say this wouldn't be as powerful as doing it that way." It's also meant that I have been in group sessions where I didn't even think about the values and principles, but other people who had learned them over the years had brought up a topic and said,"I think that we need to remember that this is part of the values" And it's like, "Oh yeah. Wow. Thank you!"
TM: I love that. That's really wonderful and also just helps LimmudBoston continue without you in a very real and consistent way.
SK: Absolutely. And that is just so exciting, because that's when you know you've created something that's going to live.
Listen to the full podcast episode in the player above.
You can learn more about LimmudBoston and their event below:
- Website: https://limmudboston.org
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/LimmudBoston
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LimmudBoston