Austrian Minister for the EU Karoline Edtstadler: “if Jewish life is under pressure - Europe is under pressure."

Limmud FSU Europe 2020 team. Courtesy of Larry Luxner.

March 3, 2020

600 people gathered this weekend for Limmud FSU Europe, which took place for the first time in the Austrian capital, following the success of the 2017 event in London. Young Jewish Russian-speaking Jews from Germany, UK, Lithuania, France, Switzerland, Sweden and other countries, participated in a packed conference featuring a program of world-class presentations and speakers from around the globe.

In the best tradition of Limmud FSU, and thanks to its volunteer-driven base, the dynamic and pluralistic Jewish festival of culture, creativity and learning featured panels, workshops, lectures and discussions on subjects ranging from the arts, to Jewish culture and tradition, history, politics, the Middle East, business and lifestyle. A high-quality special program for children was provided with a wide array of activities for different age groups.

Limmud FSU Europe children activities. Courtesy of Dmitry Melnichansky.

The event attracted some leading public figures and officials including the Minister for the European Union in the Austrian Chancellery Karoline Edtstadler; Ambassador of Israel to Austria Mordechai D. Rodgold; philanthropist and Limmud FSU President Aaron G. Frenkel; entrepreneur and Chairman of the Limmud FSU International Steering Committee Matthew Bronfman; President of the Jewish Community of Vienna Oskar Deutsch; President and CEO of the Genesis Philanthropy Group Ilia Salita; Chief Cantor of the Jewish Community of Vienna Shmuel Barzilai; Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler; Limmud FSU Co-Founder and Financial Resource Development Chair Sandra F. Cahn; head of the UK delegation of the WZO Izchak Sonnenschein; the granddaughter of  Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter, Dr. Racheli Kreisberg; Israeli TV presenter. chef and journalist Gil Hovav; Russian collector and publicist Marat Gelman; flash fiction author and poet Linor Goralik and more.

The gala evening also included a special performance by the Jazz virtuoso Leonid Ptashka together with blues and jazz singer Roy Young. Another highlight of the conference was a launching of a special exhibition, “anti-Semitism, a history portrayed”, a product of cooperation between Limmud FSU and the World Zionist Organization, curated by Dr. Joel Rappel.

Sandra F. Cahn, Matthew Bronfman, Karoline Edtstadler, Chaim Chesler and Aaron G. Frenkel.

In an emotional speech at the gala, Minister Karoline Edtstadler delivered a blessing from Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, and also praised a resolution passed by the Austrian government last Thursday condemning the BDS campaign as anti-Semitic: “Europe wants to show the world that we are united, that we will fight against anti-Semitism. If Jewish life is under pressure - Europe is under pressure. Fighting anti- Semitism is not a responsibility of Jewish Europeans, but that of all of us.”

In addressing the participants, Matthew Bronfman said, “This Limmud FSU Europe in Vienna has been an amazing experience. I want to thank you all - showing up here is a sign, a symbol. I particularly want to thank those who came here with their children because our job is to teach the next generation. Whether it is by visiting concentration camps, participating in rallies, or advocating for the Jewish people, it is our obligation to pass the message on.”

Limmud FSU Europe team and participants. Courtesy of Dmitry Melnichansky.

Chaim Chesler said, “We are excited to see that our second event in Western Europe has been such a success, and it is the best possible testimony to the fact that the Russian-Jewish community here is resurgent and flourishing.” Co-founder of Limmud FSU, Sandra F. Cahn added: “We look forward to continuing our efforts so as to contribute to the tremendous vitality of Russian-speaking Jewish life here, and to inspire more and more young people to become active members of their local Jewish communities.”

Aaron G. Frenkel said, “Our second event in Western Europe and the first in the beautiful city of Vienna, is a significant milestone for Limmud FSU. We are grateful for the support we have received from the Austrian government, the local Jewish community and our partners, and I am glad to note that the efforts of our volunteers were extremely successful and crucial for the success of the event.”

Cantor Shmuel Barzilai at the Havdalah ceremony. Courtesy of Larry Luxner.

Ilia Salita added, "The inspiring success of Limmud FSU Europe Vienna is yet another testament to the resurgent dynamism of the global community of Russian-speaking Jews, who are raising - in Europe, in America, in Israel and the former Soviet Union - to reclaim their identity and legacy and to fully become a part of the Jewish world. Genesis Philanthropy Group is proud to support this momentous trend, which holds the potential to invigorate, enhance and empower the Jewish life and the Jewish people."

Limmud FSU Europe enjoyed the generous support of the Genesis Philanthropy Group; Conference for Jewish Material Claims against Germany; National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism; Future Fund of the Republic of Austria; Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research; the City of Vienna, World Zionist Organization, World Jewish Congress – International Yiddish Center in Vilnius and Joel Passick among others.

Limmud FSU Europe team and volunteers.

The event was made possible thanks to the team of local leaders and volunteers, under the direction of Limmud FSU Executive Director Roman Kogan and the project management team, Dimitri Mevzos and Linor Kiknadze, together with the chair of the Programming Committee Natalia Kantovich; chair of the PR and Marketing Committee Evgeniy Pisetsky; chair of the  Logistics Committee Julia Bakman; chair of the Participants Care Committee Shoshana Kandel; chair of the Children's Program Committee Marina Lomberg, chair of the Volunteer’s Committee Anastasia Kantovich; chair of the International Representatives ("Ambassadors") Committee Helen Medvinska and many others.