PARTICIPANTS OF Limmud FSU’s Odessa conference.
(photo credit: Courtesy of Limmud FSU)
The ninth annual Limmud FSU – a Jewish conference and social event – will kick off this year in the bucolic surroundings of Povedniki, about 40 kilometers north of Moscow.
The confab, which takes place from April 24 to 27, is considered the largest Jewish gathering in the former Soviet Union.
With over 180 panel and roundtable discussions, participants will have a chance to enjoy lectures on Sigmund Freud, music, magic, Ukrainian Jewry and a film screening about Boris Godunov, the famous opera.
Several standout participants are coming this year, including the Israeli ambassador to Russia, Dorit Golender; Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews; Russian Jewish Congress president Yuri Kanner; and Dr. Tzvia Walden of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, an expert in linguistics, who will speak on disagreement in Jewish tradition.
The founder of Limmud FSU, Chaim Chesler, who as executive director of the Israel Public Council for Soviet Jewry worked to raise awareness of the plight of Soviet Jewry in the 1980s, is excited about this year’s event.
“Our dream was to present to the new generation of young Russian- speaking Jews throughout the world topics that are close to their hearts and excite their imagination, such as Jewish history and culture, Jewish roots and issues of identity, the Holocaust, and subjects relating to achieving success in life, both in economic and cultural terms.”
Over the years he has seen the dream of a vibrant Limmud, staffed by a vigorous local community, become a reality.
Roman Kogan, executive director of Limmud FSU, recalls growing up in Estonia, where he was born in 1978. He made aliya at age 12 and worked for the Jewish Agency in Saint Petersburg.
When he came to work for Limmud, he saw it as a new model that would build on the tumultuous years of the 1990s and 2000s.
In those years, Jewish communal life was dominated by large international organizations that came in after the fall of the Soviet Union.
“We are looking forward to another quality and energetic event. This is the biggest Limmud event in the Russian-speaking world and biggest gathering of Jews in Moscow and Russia.”
He stresses how meaningful the event is for the community’s younger generation.
“The idea is to allow the young generation of leaders of the Moscow Jewish community to build the framework of their Jewish life [through] an independent project run almost totally by volunteers.
“I think Limmud is the best example of a new era that they [the participants] can shape – a project for themselves that is not just led by the establishment.”