Over 800 attend Jerusalem’s Art Limmud FSU Festival

Three-day festival for young Russian-speaking Israelis featured 80 lectures from luminaries.

Limmud art festival 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Nathan Roie)
Limmud art festival 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Nathan Roie)
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 Thursday.
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, respectively.
PRESIDENT SHIMON Peres, honorary Limmud FSU chairwoman Diane Wall, Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler and Limmud FSU board member Yoram Dori gather Thursday to kick off Jerusalem’s Limmud FSU’s Art Festival. Courtesy Nathan RoiePRESIDENT SHIMON Peres, honorary Limmud FSU chairwoman Diane Wall, Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler and Limmud FSU board member Yoram Dori gather Thursday to kick off Jerusalem’s Limmud FSU’s Art Festival. Courtesy Nathan Roie
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 and dance.
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.
“Limmud 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 together.
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 communism.”
“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.
Limmud FSU 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 disciplines.
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 said.
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 “self-development.”
“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 FSU conference.
“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 said.
“This festival unequivocally proves that we are effectively reaching the hearts and minds of future young Russian-speaking leaders.”
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.”