“Yes, all voices are welcome, so long as they are critical of Israel,” is how Tuvia Tenenbom, journalist, dramatist and best-selling author, described the Limmud Conference in Birmingham, England on Dec. 27 – 31, 2015.
Tenenbom, author of “Catch the Jew,” sat through several days, but not all, of the recent conference. Tenenbom was supposed to be there for the entire conference, he was a speaker, but after being disinvited from the fourth session in which he was supposed to appear, and after enduring scathingly hostile verbal attacks from audience members and former Limmud officials, Tenenbom had enough.
That’s what Tenenbom says.
What Keith Kahn-Harris says is quite different and he’s the organizer and leader of the session from which Tenenbom was dropped, and he’s the one who told Tenenbom he was disinvited.
According to Kahn-Harris, it was his decision alone to drop Tenenbom from the final panel and it was “not an ideological decision from someone ideologically opposed to Tuvia Tenenbom.” Instead, Kahn-Harris said he dropped Tenenbom from the session because he had invited four participants but only really wanted three – and he “left it to the [time of the] conference” to decide whom to cut.
Why did it make any difference whether there were three or four people on the session? Kahn-Harris spoke with the JewishPress.com by telephone on Thursday, Jan. 7 to discuss that topic.
The session in controversy was scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 5:40 p.m. The title of the session was “JNEB: Jewish nightmares, exasperations and broiguses.” According to Kahn-Harris, that session was “not like a regular Limmud session, it wasn’t ‘a panel’ it was to be a darker version of JDOV, a space for negativity and evil and I needed to drop one because there are only three people on the JDOV sessions.”
JDOV, Kahn-Harris explained, is like a Jewish Ted Talk, it’s where speakers are invited “to share their Jewish dream, observation or vision.”
This is the description of that session from the Limmud Conference program: “We all need inspiration and hope on our Jewish journeys. But sometimes we also need to engage with those things that are just depressing. For the first time at Limmud we present JNEB, JDOV’s evil twin. It is a space for the negative and the uninspiring. Our brave pioneer presenters will each reveal something from which no positive lesson can be drawn.” The participants listed are: Alastair Falk, Keith Kahn-Harris, Daniel Shine, Elana Sztokman, Tuvia Tenenbom.
A very quick search of the JDOV site doesn’t reveal anything about three or four participants. Instead, it seems to be TED talk-like sessions of individual speakers.
When pressed, Kahn-Harris explained that he realized at the conference that “Tuvia was the most appropriate to drop from the session.” Why? Because he spoke with the others and they were all planning on revealing dark personal secrets about themselves, “one was planning on talking about a son’s depression, another was going to talk about an eating disorder” and Tuvia “hadn’t prepared for it,” while he had “very strong feelings from the others.”
Kahn-Harris said that the other three whom he had invited for the JNEB session “fit together very well.”
Tenenbom was asked whether there had been any discussion about the JNEB session before he was told he was disinvited. Tenenbom said, “Kahn-Harris told me before, he said you will be on the panel, and if you have any questions, let’s talk, and then the next day he said, ‘sorry’ and he gave me so many excuses such as ‘because it was going to be about personal things and it’s not good that you will be there’ but he had never talked about that before.”