Over 400 young Jews from Moldova have registered for a three-day conference in the country this weekend, sponsored by Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union), to reconnect to their once severed roots via renowned Jewish experts representing a spectrum of disciplines.
The program, which begins Friday, will include lectures, debates, workshops, round-table discussions, music and cultural discourse in Russian, English, and Hebrew – all run by international volunteers in coordination with the country’s local Jewish community.
According to Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU, a primary focus of the program will be recognition of the poet Natan Alterman and the painter Nachum Gutman, whose family members will also participate in the conference.
“The Jewish community of Kishinev, of which Alterman and Gutman were an important part, is a small but dynamic and lively one, which played a significant role in contemporary life in Israel and left a rich cultural heritage,” said Chesler on Wednesday.
“I am certain that with a new generation of Russian-speaking young people throughout the world, the link to the Jewish heritage and culture – as demonstrated by giants such as Alterman and Gutman – will be strengthened, including identity and a sense of belonging, remembrance of the Holocaust, and Jewish fortitude.”
As part of the program, a roundtable on contemporary anti-Semitism in Europe will take place with the participation of Limmud FSU leaders Matthew Bronfman, Sandra Cahn, and Chesler, as well as Alex Bilinkis, chairman of the Jewish community of Moldova.
Additionally, the premiere of an exhibit of the art of Gutman will be introduced by his son, Prof. Hemi Gutman. The exhibit, which will feature landscapes, portraits and biblical representations, was initiated by the Israel Prime Minister’s Office and the Gutman Museum in Tel Aviv.
Natan Slor, Alterman’s grandson, will also conduct a literary musical evening, featuring poems and songs written by his grandfather, some of which were written during his childhood years in Kishinev.
Other artists appearing at this year’s event will include the jazz pianist Leonid Ptashka, virtuoso violinist Sanya Kroiter, the singer Irena Rosenfeld, famous Russian actor Veniamin Smecho, and a group of actors from Moscow who will present excepts from “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Participants will also include Mark Galesnik, the editor of the popular Israeli-Russian satirical magazine, Besder; Igor Schupak, founder and director of the Jewish Museum in Dnepopetrovsk; and the Ukrainian writer, Marina Goncharova.
Aaron Weiss, of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, will show a documentary movie on the rescue by neighbors of a local family in Western Ukraine, and the producer, Boris Maftsir, will show excepts from his new television project on the Holocaust in the Soviet Union.
Limmud FSU, founded nearly 10 years ago by Chaim Chesler of Israel, and Sandra Cahn of New York, reconnects thousands of young Russian speakers from countries in the former Soviet Union.
Limmud programs are also held wherever there are Russian-speaking Jewish communities, including in Israel, the United States, Canada, and Australia.
“Limmud FSU provides a unique, pluralistic, egalitarian and all-embracing educational and cultural experience, with no connection to any particular organization or political group, but concentrates on the search for roots, national pride and a sense of unity, and an affinity to the State of Israel,” said Chesler.
“I am certain that with a new generation of Russian-speaking young people throughout the world, the link to the Jewish heritage and culture – as demonstrated by giants such as Alterman and Gutman – will be strengthened, including identity and a sense of belonging, remembrance of the Holocaust, and Jewish fortitude,” Chesler added.
One of the most popular events at the conference included a Friday round-table discussion on contemporary anti-Semitism in Europe led by renowned businessman and Limmud FSU leader Matthew Bronfman, and Bilinkis.
Internationally-celebrated singer Irene Rosenfeld, 26, who made aliya from Kiev five months ago, also performed on Saturday night following Havdalah services.
Rosenfeld said that her favorite aspect of the conferences is connecting to other young Jewish people who were cut off from their past by Communism.
“At Limmud I feel like I am home and have the opportunity to meet different interesting people, and share an important experience with other young Jews,” she said. “I love Limmud. It is a part of me now.”
On Saturday, Executive Director Roman Kogan summarized Limmud FSU’s enduring appeal.
“First it was ‘Let my people go,” he said. “Now it’s ‘Let my people know.’ This is the power of Limmud.”