LimmudFest New Orleans is delighted to present…

Food for Thought: Dinner with a Purpose

March 27, 2019

7:00-9:00 pm

One night. Twelve dinners in twelve private homes. Twelve dynamic Limmud presenters. Twelve seats at each table.

Learn something, engage in stimulating conversation, meet new people, and eat delicious food: what could be better?

To learn about who is presenting and what they will be discussing, click here. This unique event is expected to fill up quickly, so don’t wait too long to register. A glatt Kosher meal will be provided to anyone who requests it.

Reserve your seat today.

Limmud New Orleans is a completely volunteer-run organization. All fees and donations go directly back into quality events and programming.

Any questions? Contact


Meshuganah Mambo

From rock ‘n’ roll, to rhythm & blues, and even Christmas music, many people know about the great contributions that Jews have made to the music industry as performers, songwriters, and businessmen. But you still might be surprised to find out that from the 1950s through 1970s, Jews were heavily involved in Latin music, in styles ranging from cha-cha to mambo to salsa. And perhaps even more surprising to people today is how popular Latin music in particular was in Jewish communities of that time. The result was a fascinating cultural mix of Yiddish folk tunes and Latin rhythms on albums with titles like “Bagels and Bongos” or “Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos.” Come learn and listen to the rich history of Jews and Latin music; there will be plenty of samples of the music itself.

Ben Berman spends most of his free time digging deeper and deeper into the endless chasm of recorded music from all over the world. When he’s not searching out and listening to music, you can find him fighting for justice as a lawyer.

Location: Midcity


The Book of Esther: Chance, Providence, or Human Prudence?

The Book of Esther is the familiar work we read for the holiday of Purim.  A closer look reveals an amazing biblical text, which tells the tale of a Jewish heroine in the court of an Oriental despot who manages, with the help of her guardian, to overturn a wicked plan to destroy all the Jews of the empire. Behind the fairy-tale tone of a melodrama, the work wrestles with questions of political, theological, and philosophic import.  Most striking is the complete absence of any reference to God. What, then, are we to make of the seemingly miraculous reversals in the tightly woven plot that turn the villain’s plan against him and all his supporters? A series of implausible coincidences in a world of chance? The hidden providence of God? Or the promises and limits of human prudence without divine support?

Ronna Burger is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Sizeler Professor of Jewish Studies at Tulane, where she has been teaching since 1980.  She is the author of books on Plato and Aristotle, as well as articles on Maimonides and the Hebrew Bible.   Along with graduate seminars on ancient philosophy, she has been teaching a series of courses on the relation of Bible and philosophy, including “Genesis,” “Women in the Bible,” “The Political World of the Bible,” “Prophets of the Bible,” and “The Problem of Evil.”

Location: Uptown


Jieuxs, Mishigas, New Orleans, and Carnival

Carnival practice today in New Orleans is more varied, expressive, and participatory than in any previous generation. One of the great catalysts for the reimagining of carnival was the Krewe du Vieux, which openly announced its intent to embrace the “true” spirit of carnival, in opposition to the stultifying and often racist carnival culture defined by the so-called old-line carnival krewes. While Jews were famously barred from the elite Uptown clubs and krewes, they found a home as one of the 17 sub-krewes of the Krewe du Vieux, first as Krewe du Jieux (KdJ) and then as Mishigas. Let’s look together at  the texts of KdJ and Mishigas to learn how they juggle Jewish and New Orleans identity in typically carnivalesque expressive forms. We will see how satire is deployed and how the fundamental concept of inversion takes shape in application to Jewish identity and iconography.

C.W. Cannon writes fiction and nonfiction. He is the author of four novels: Soul Resin (FC2 Press, 2002), Katrina Means Cleansing (47 Journals, 2015), French Quarter Beautification Project (Lavender Ink, 2017), and Sleepytime Down South (Livingston Press, 2018). His writing is found most frequently today in The Lens (, where he contributes essays on New Orleans culture, the South, and race. He teaches writing and New Orleans studies at Loyola University New Orleans.

Location: Garden District

*Vegetarian Meal


Power and Consent in the Bible: Purim and #MeToo

Queen Vashti won’t dance, Mordechai won’t bow, Esther must always ask permission from King Ahasuerus. Our discussion will unpack the concept of consent as it existed in the biblical world: who must obtain consent, and how do they do it? What happens if God uses a person’s body against their will? How do issues of masculinity, gender, and social class relate to consent? The biblical texts may be ancient, but the issues they raise in this original #MeToo moment continue to affect society today.

Jason Gaines is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at Tulane University. He received his PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages from Brandeis University, and he has previously served on the faculty of Smith College, College of the Holy Cross, and the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. His book about poetry in the Torah, The Poetic Priestly Source, was published recently by Fortress Press. His husband, Cantor Kevin Margolius, is cantor at Touro Synagogue.

Location: Marigny


The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience Wants YOU!

You may have heard that the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, originally located in Utica, MS, is moving to New Orleans and is scheduled to open in 2020. Join Executive Director Kenneth Hoffman to “workshop” the Museum’s exhibits and programs. What should the Museum cover? How can it attract Jews and non-Jews alike? What are the important themes and messages you want to see portrayed? And, most importantly, how can YOU become a part of the Museum? Your input can be vital to the Museum’s development and success, so come prepared to discuss, debate, and share!

Kenneth Hoffman grew up happy in Baton Rouge. He earned an MA in history from Tulane University. Kenneth has worked as a grant writer for the New Orleans Museum of Art and as the curator of education at the Louisiana State Museum. He recently ended an eighteen-year tenure as director of education at the National WWII Museum. Today Kenneth is the executive director for the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, which will open in New Orleans in 2020. Kenneth, his wife, and their two daughters live in New Orleans’ Black Pearl neighborhood, yet don’t eat at Camellia Grill nearly enough.

Location: Metarie


Radical and Secular Jews: The Workmen’s Circle Then and Now

Laine Kaplan-Levenson spent ten years at Camp Kinderland, a summer camp established in 1923 by Jewish union activists who believed that Jewish culture includes a responsibility to social justice. These radical Jews were members of the Workmen’s Circle, a social justice organization that continues to power progressive Jewish identity through Jewish cultural engagement, Yiddish-language learning, multigenerational education, and activism. The Kinderland experience shaped who Laine is today, and they are inspired to share the history of the Workmen’s Circle and how its values of cultural Judaism in the name of justice remains a progressive force today.

Laine Kaplan-Levenson is a multimedia producer in New Orleans. They are the host of New Orleans Public Radio WWNO’s award-winning history podcast “Tripod: New Orleans at 300,” as well as the WWNO/WRKF (Baton Rouge) political podcast “Stickey Wicket.”  Laine is also the founder and lead producer of the live storytelling series, “Bring Your Own.”

Location: Bayou St. John

*Vegetarian Meal


“Strangers in the Land of Egypt” : The Immigration Crisis

The Torah commands us at least 36 times to care for the stranger in our midst, the foreigner, the refugee. In the Torah this commandment is rooted in the Israelite experience as “strangers” in the land of Egypt. Today, many Jews are the children or grandchildren of immigrants or refugees. Much of our current political landscape has been shaped by debates around immigration, refugees, and the treatment of people entering our country. What organizations are working to help immigrants and refugees? What does their work look like? What are conditions in immigrant detention centers? Why are we turning toward immigrant detention and what are the costs? Al Page, an immigration attorney, will describe the work she has done for immigrants and refugees both in and out of detention. She will answer questions and participate in a lively discussion on the issues she faces in her work.

Al Page is the co-founder and staff attorney at ISLA: Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy, a nonprofit law firm representing detained immigrants in their removal proceedings. She is a graduate of McGill University and Tulane Law School. After law school, she worked for several years representing unaccompanied immigrant minors. Recently, she opened ISLA to address the egregious deprivation of due process for immigrants in detention. Al is a member of NCJW and is active in the Jewish community, throwing an annual radical seder for more than 100 pals. In her spare time, she likes to rollerblade, crab, and sing and dance with friends.

Location: Bywater


Producing Movies with a Moral Compass

Movies can be a powerful medium for bringing ideas, values, and norms to wide-ranging audiences and thus changing the way they see and approach the world around them. In my job as a producer, each film’s ideas and images are the main tool I have to try to help move the world in a more positive direction. We will be exploring what it means to be a film producer. What moral responsibilities come with that role? What metrics and guideposts should be used to choose the projects one works on and thus are responsible for putting into the world? And how can we, as a group of both creators and consumers of media, help push the world in small or big ways toward being the society we want to see?

Josh Penn is a producer with the Department of Motion Pictures.  He produced BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012), which won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Caméra d’Or at Cannes, and was nominated for four Academy Awards (including Best Picture).   He has also held producing roles on PATTI CAKE$ (Sundance 2017), WESTERN (Sundance 2015 Special Jury Prize Winner), THE GREAT INVISIBLE (SXSW 2014 Grand Jury Prize Winner), and CONTEMPORARY COLOR.  Josh premiered two projects at Sundance 2018: MONSTERS AND MEN (Special Jury Prize for Outstanding First Feature) and the live documentary, A THOUSAND THOUGHTS.

Location: Midcity


Think Good and It Will Be Good: Kabbalistic Insights into the Value of Positive Thinking

Can our attitude really affect reality? Is there more than a psychological component to this phenomenon? Join Sarah for a thoughtful discussion and leave with some useful techniques.

Sarah Rivkin is the co-director of the Chabad Student Center at Tulane University.

Together with her family, she has spent the last two decades engaging with college students in their quest to define their identities and create their life-map. She has found Judaism, specifically the Chassidic-Kabbalistic approach, to be profoundly illuminating in helping us understand ourselves, our struggles, and our path to meaning.

Location: Bayou St. John


After Pittsburgh, Do You Bring Your Gun to Synagogue?

The horrific tragedy at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the recent rise in anti-Semitic actions give special importance to the question raised in the title. What are the most effective ways to ensure the safety and security of Jews, and of all minorities, in an increasingly polarized society? Hillary, a Jewish FBI agent for more than two decades, and Aaron Ahlquist, ADL regional director,will describe the current threat picture with respect to hate crimes based on religion and active shooter situations at religious institutions and suggest how best to respond.

Hillary B. Rossman, born and raised in South Florida, earned her BA in History from Cornell University and her JD from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall School of Law).  She interned for Miami State Attorney Janet Reno and practiced law as a litigation associate before joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a Special Agent in December, 1996.  She was assigned to New Orleans Field Office from 1997–2007  and returned to the New Orleans Field Office as Chief Division Counsel in July, 2014.  Hillary is single raising a Shih-Tzu puppy.

Aaron Ahlquist is the Regional Director for the ADL South-Central Region covering Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.  The ADL is a 105-year-old civil rights and human relations agency that fights anti-Semitism and discrimination against all.  Before starting at the ADL in December 2017, Aaron was an attorney at Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC in New Orleans. Aaron also spent time on Capitol Hill working on issues of refugee and human rights, health care, and judiciary matters.

Location: Metarie


Navigating Two Worlds and Making a Difference: The Legacy of Moishe Steeg

Beginning in the 1880s with his great-grandfather Aaron Steeg, Rob Steeg’s family has been active in civic and charitable activities, both Jewish and non-Jewish. His father, Moise Steeg Jr., exemplified this involvement, both its highlights and its pitfalls.  He participated in many ground-breaking events in both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities, though his was not the “traditional” Jewish involvement; he was more focused on specific projects and programs, often involving building connections between different segments of the community, such as between Jews and people of color or between Jews and non-Jews. Over dinner, Rob will share stories about his family, particularly his father, and explore the different paths available to a person who wants to be active in civic and charitable matters—including some of the difficulties of pursuing these paths in a city that is 99% non-Jewish and some of the issues of moving back and forth between the Jewish community and the rest of the city.

Robert (Rob) Steeg is a real estate attorney in New Orleans, a fourth-generation member of the New Orleans Jewish community, and the father of two millennials. He has been practicing law in New Orleans since 1979 and is presently a co-managing member of the Steeg Law Firm in New Orleans. Rob is the chair of the City Planning Commission of the City of New Orleans,  serves on the executive committee of the New Orleans Museum of Art, and serves on the board of WWNO radio. He is a former board member of Temple Sinai and the Jewish Federation of New Orleans, as well as other Jewish and civic and charitable organizations.

Location: Metarie


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