Limmud FSU, Peres's daigher 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy Limmud FSU)
VISHNYEVA, Belarus – The modest rural childhood home of President Shimon Peres,
located in Vishnyeva, just outside of Minsk, was honored as a historical
landmark Thursday, in the first of what will be many celebrations honoring
Peres’s 90th birthday, officially beginning on August 2.
placed by the front-door of the small home read: “In this place, Shimon Peres,
son of Yitzhak and Sarah Perski, the Nobel Laureate and 9th President of the
State of Israel, was born on August 2, 1923.”
“We are here to honor a
great man,” said Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler, who arranged the event in
collaboration with the Government of Belarus.
Chesler’s organization was
founded six years ago to reconnect Jews from the former Soviet Union with their
once severed ties to Judaism.
“We can all be humbled that this amazing
man came from such a small place – and drank from this well’s water – and went
on to true greatness.”
Indeed, directly adjacent to the house, Chesler
pointed to the original water well which Peres often reminisces about in
interviews, discussing how delicious the water was and how its taste remains
with him to this day.
“If Shimon Peres drank from this well, we all must
drink from this well!” pronounced Chesler, as he walked up to it and filled
dozens of cups with the water and passed them out to participants, including the
president’s eldest daughter, Prof. Tzvia Walden.
“It is an honor to be
here to represent my father and share with all of you his love of this home and
the water he and my family drank many years ago,” said Walden. “I know he would
be so happy to share all this with you.”
Also in attendance were Limmud
FSU co-founder Sandra Cahn, a prominent New York businesswoman and
philanthropist, Limmud FSU Chairman Matthew Bronfman, and Limmud FSU President Aron Frankel of Monte Carlo.
The ceremony was held as part of the Limmud FSU Festival, which
will be held in Belarus from May 31 through June 2. Over 500 Jews from the
region between the ages of 20 and 40 are expected to attend the event, which
includes a series of lectures from world-class Jewish scholars and
“The juxtaposition of going to the house and drinking the
water and walking just a few feet away from where [Peres’s] grandfather was
killed was startling, but reinforced my commitment and passion for what we are
doing now in Limmud,” said Cahn, of Peres’s maternal grandfather, Tzvi Meltzer,
who was murdered there by Nazis.
“This is because we are showing the
world and proving to our people that nothing can keep us down,” she continued.
“We are committed to our Jewish identity and heritage. The Limmud model is a
perfect way to invite everyone into the Jewish tent and prove Am Yisrael chai
[‘The People of Israel live’],” she added.
Earlier in the day, the town
held an emotional memorial service near the Valley of Death monument to
commemorate the 2,000 Jews of Vishnyeva that were murdered at the hands of the
Nazis. At the completion of these events, a special closing ceremony was held
honoring his family.
The original idea was first raised to the Government
of Belarus by Chesler and Yoram Dori, a close adviser to Peres for over two
decades, during a meeting with officials in Belarus and the local authorities of
Vishnyeva one year ago.
“I worked with President Peres for more than 20
years and all this time I tried to find the secret to his strength and
dedication to the State of Israel and peace,” said Dori following the event. “I
think now that I visited his home and learned more about the Jewry there, I
understand his strength and dedication for the Jewish people.”