During the past weekend, a record number of 600 Jewish participants took part in the biggest Jewish event ever to take place in Belarus. The pluralistic volunteer-driven conference arranged by Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) included more than 150 sessions on a wide range of topics with a multiple selection of activities each hour.
Keynote presenters at the conference included Andrey Makarevich, a famous rock musician from Moscow; Alon Shoham, Israel’s Ambassador to Belarus; Hadas Kalderon, the noted Israeli actress and granddaughter of Abraham Sutzkever, the acclaimed Yiddish poet and Israel Prize laureate; Rabbis Shneor Deutsch, Grigory Abramovich; Yana Agmon, the regional director of "Nativ" in Russia and Belarus; Chaim Chesler, Limmud FSU founder; Dorit Golender, vice-president of community relations in Genesis Philanthropy Group; Zeev Khanin, chief scientist of Israeli Ministry of Absorption; Efraim Zuroff, historian and Nazi hunter, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and others.
Chaim Chesler said: “It is the second time we have held Limmud FSU in Minsk, and we are truly excited to be a part of this vibrant community with its rich Jewish history.” Sandra Cahn, Limmud FSU co-founder added, “Hopefully, we’ll continue to grow here, reach new heights, and break records for many years to come.”
A central feature of the event was the dedication of a memorial plaque to Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kovno during the war, who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust, including the students of the Mir Yeshiva, and after the war was granted the title of “Righteous of the Nations.” The plaque was installed on the former building of the Yeshiva on Holocaust day with the participation of Nobuki Sugihara, his son, who also gave a lecture on his father in the framework of Limmud.
Another highlight of the event was the opening of an exhibition on the life and work of Yitzhak Shamir the seventh Prime Minister of the State of Israel, who was born in Belarus. Taking part were his children, former Israeli Minister of agriculture Yair Shamir, and daughter, Gilada Diamant, as well as Herzl Makov, Shamir’s former director of the office and chair of Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem – Limmud FSU’s partner in this initiative.
One of the conference’s participants, Misha Etin (26), said that it’s his second time at Limmud FSU Belarus:” It was really worth the wait. Limmud is such an amazing platform, the atmosphere of unity and Jewish learning is really unique and exciting. This is definitely my favorite Jewish event.”
Regional director of "Nativ" in Russia and Belarus, Yana Agmon: “Nativ is happy to support Israeli content in the programs of Limmud FSU events and together, to instill values incorporating Zionism, Jewish identity and a recognition of the Land of Israel in all its aspects. Here in Belarus, Nativ is proud to present children's leadership as developed in Nativ Cultural Center’s youth club in Minsk, in its intergenerational aspects and with reference to Nobel Prize winners. I believe that that the wonderful experience that Limmud FSU provides to its participants year after year, will remain in your hearts for a long time to come.
The program of the annual conference included dozens of activities on wide range of topics by noted speakers and lecturers, among them the noted Canadian author and filmmaker David Bezmozgis; prominent American historian Deborah Lipstadt; a popular Australian broadcast and TV personality Rabbi Mordechai Becher; Writer and teacher Rachel Sharansky Danziger; Writer, literary critic, and radio broadcaster Alexander Genis; Israeli Actress and granddaughter of the famed Yiddish writer Avraham Sutzkever, Hadas Kalderon; The Operations Officer in an Israeli special commando unit under the command of Yoni Netanyahu Rami Sherman, Limmud International chief executive Eli Ovits, and many more. The packed event also featured an interactive children’s program for ages 3-13, and also a special teen program, “Discovery Day – Israel” in partnership with ClubZ.
Founder of Limmud FSU, Chaim Chesler said: “We couldn’t feel more blessed - the program of Limmud FSU NY this year is extremely rich, high-quality and packed with the best speakers from so many different fields of work.” Sandra Cahn, co-founder of Limmud FSU added that “We’re excited to continue to take an active part in the vibrant and ever-evolving life of the Russian-speaking Jewish community of New York, and the amazing program this year is a great example”.
“It’s a great experience to be here, one day which is so packed with different activities, learning, sharing” said Marina Kagan (28) from New York who attended the conference for the second time, “It’s a truly unique event, and it never disappoints.”
Alon Shoham, Israel’s Ambassador to Belarus spoke during the opening event and said:” I’m so delighted to see here at Limmud FSU so many young Jewish adults. They are truly the future of the Jewish community in Belarus.”
Supporters of the event included Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Claims Conference, Nativ, Leonid Tomchin - Chairman of the Board of Directors of the pharmaceutical holding “Apteka group”, Jewish Agency in Belarus and more. In the best tradition of Limmud, the event was made possible by its team of local leaders and volunteers, led by Limmud FSU Executive Director Roman Kogan and the Project Manager Galina Rybnikova, volunteers Viktoria Brumina (chair of the organizing committee), Yelena Kulevnich, Irina Fridman, Tatyana Shteinbuk, Alexander Furs and others.