Some 800 Jews gathered for the first ever Limmud FSU West Coast 2017 conference in the San Francisco Bay Area, the biggest Jewish event geared towards the Russian-speaking Jewish community in the whole region. It took place at Marriott City Center Oakland, after months of work done by a devoted team of young adults
The exciting event kicked off on Friday with a ceremony honoring former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who was deeply involved in the struggle of Soviet Jewry during the 1980’s and 90’s when immigration from USSR was denied. Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in Soviet prisons, Israeli Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis and the Claims Conference President Rabbi Julius Berman presented Shultz with an honorary award.
Among the featured presenters at the conference were the Jewish-Ukrainian born WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, with a special Q&A session that was attended by hundreds of the participants, first Jewish astronaut Garrett Reisman, who gave a highly anticipated lecture about his experience in space, Historian Prof. Deborah Lipstadt about Holocaust denial and the rising Antisemitism, Israel’s Consul General to the Pacific North West Shlomi Kofman, Undervud band from Russia, and more.
Another highlight of the event was the launch of a special exhibition “Shimon Peres – Vision and Innovation”, produced by Limmud FSU together with the late president’s family and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. Tsvia Walden, Peres’ daughter, curated the exhibition.
“The Russian-speaking Jewish community in the West Coast is flourishing, and this milestone - a record number of participants in our first ever event in the Bay Area – is the proof of it,” said Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler, “we also were very honored to be the chosen spot where such exciting events, as the launch of the late President Peres exhibition and honoring George Shultz”.
This event could not have happened without the generous support of Koret Foundation, Jim Joseph Foundation, Fooksman Family Charitable Fund, Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), Israeli Consulate General of the Pacific Northwest, World Jewish Congress, Claims Conference, Jewish Community Foundation of East Bay, Ukrainian Jewish Encounter and other donors and partners.
"Our previous West Coast 2016 conference in Los Angeles was such a great experience that the decision to have our next Limmud FSU conference in the Bay area was an easy one”, said the co-founder of Limmud FSU, Sandra Cahn,” and this year’s strong lineup and remarkable attendance is another testimony of the powerful appeal of Jewish learning in a pluralistic, dynamic and engaging environment”.
Leo Hmelnitsky, the chair of Limmud FSU West Coast organizing committee: “I want to thank all volunteers who dedicated countless hours over the last year developing an incredibly rich program and working on all the logistics for the conference. Our main goal was and will continue to be inspiring participants to strengthen their Jewish identity, to learn about and celebrate our heritage, to connect to Israel and many local Jewish organizations, and to ultimately take the next step on their personal Jewish journey.”