A record-breaking 800 Russian-speaking Israelis converged on the capital’s
Kiryat Moriah’s campus to attend the annual three-day Jerusalem Art Limmud FSU
Festival following the opening ceremony, constituted by the Peres/Begin
Exhibition and attended by President Shimon Peres in the capital on
Peres was honored by Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union), along
with former prime minister Menachem Begin, both originally from Belarus, in dual
photo exhibits at the First Station to celebrate their 90th and 100th birthdays,
Shortly thereafter, hundreds of young Israelis from the
former Soviet Union traveled to the education center to meet, network and attend
80 lectures ranging from art history, neural science, philosophy, bible studies
Katya Osmekhousky, a recent college graduate from Moldova, who
is visiting the country on a 10-month trip sponsored by MASA said she has
attended five Limmud FSU conferences since she was a teenager.
empowers you by connecting interesting Jewish people from different countries
who have different points of view,” she said Saturday after attending a lecture.
“It also gives me the freedom to go to the lectures I’m interested in, which
also gives me the freedom to learn in my own way.”
Osmekhousky added that
she didn’t know she was Jewish until the age of 11, and since then has utilized
Limmud FSU as a means to learn about Jewish history and develop a greater
connection with Israel.
“I came here because this is the country I belong
to,” she said. “There’s one country where you’re born and another country where
your heart belongs.”
Limmud FSU conferences, described by founder Chaim
Chesler as “egalitarian and pluralistic,” are run by volunteers from across the
globe who are passionate about the organization’s mission to revitalize the
Jewish culture in the former Soviet Union, while bringing young leaders
Chesler said attendees like Osmekhousky embody the spirit of
Limmud FSU that “seeks to restore the tradition of lifelong Jewish learning and
to strengthen Jewish identity that was stripped away by decades of
“We believe our educational model and continuing efforts will
ensure a vibrant and sustainable Jewish future for young Russianspeaking adults
throughout the world,” he said.
Limmud Jewish education conferences were
conceived in Britain 32 years ago as a volunteer driven enterprise. It has since
branched out, now holding events in 26 countries, including Australia, Brazil,
Canada, China, Hungary, Mexico, the United States, Sweden, Turkey, Israel,
Ukraine, Russia and other nations in the former Soviet Union.
was founded in 2006 by Chesler, of Israel and co-founded by Sandra Cahn, of New
York, and Mikhail Chlenov, of Russia.
Aaron Frenkel of Monte Carlo serves
as its president and philanthropist and businessman Matthew Bronfman is chairman
of its international steering committee.
The organization continues to
attract a number of internationally esteemed speakers from multiple
Heralded Israeli brain scientist Prof. Amir Geva – who was
introduced to US President Barack Obama in March by Peres and Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu during his visit – said he presented the same lecture to
participants Saturday that he gave to Obama.
“I really enjoyed this
because I like to give lectures to relatively small groups where I can answer
their questions, and I felt that each and every person was really interested and
asked the right questions,” he said.
Geva added that he viewed Limmud FSU
as a form of “post-Zionism,” where participants are looking beyond their past to
learn more about the present and future.
“I like this energy – it’s like
a new post-Zionism with people who want to have a connection with Israel because
they see the interesting things we’re doing now in science and innovation, not
because Israel is the land of the Bible,” he said.
Dr. Amira Meir, head
of biblical studies at Beit Berl College in Kfar Saba, and wife of former
ambassador to Italy Gideon Meir, gave a packed lecture Saturday titled “The
Biblical Heroine Tamar: An Accidental Heroine or Pioneer Feminist?” Following
her talk, Meir said she was particularly impressed by the mutual respect
participants showed for differing opinions, adding that Limmud FSU engenders a
“qualitative dimension to Israeli society.”
“If we can adopt these traits
to our public life we’ll improve and enhance our political life,” she
Vera Skvirsky, a social worker who made aliya 23 years ago from
Kiev, said the festival is her first foray into Limmud.
“This is a new
intellectual environment combining my Jewish and Russian roots,” she said. “It’s
important to me as part of my Russian-speaking Jewish-Israeli identity and as
someone born in the Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, Mariya Tishkov-Zavin, originally
from Moscow and a member of Limmud FSU’s Organizational Committee, said this is
her fifth conference and described the festival as part of her
“Limmud gives me the opportunity to have a productive
time with my friends, meet new people, network and lead a cultural life,” she
said. “It has something for everyone.”
Chelser, who was joined by
Bronfman and Vladimir Skvortzov, ambassador from Belarus, during the festival,
said he was overwhelmed by the record-breaking attendance for a Jerusalem Limmud
“It’s a big miracle that 800 young people paid their own
way to gather for three full days in Jerusalem for this event,” he
“This festival unequivocally proves that we are effectively
reaching the hearts and minds of future young Russian-speaking
The founder added that Limmud FSU has become a “trend among
Russian-speaking Jews around the world.”
“By learning about and
celebrating their shared identities they will ensure a strong Jewish future, he
said. “This is what Limmud FSU is all about.”