December 9, Warsaw: Some of them traveled over 30 hours by coach to get there, all of them admit to living under stress over the past 10 months in Ukraine or in the countries where they have found refuge, some of them have survived bombing, and all have direct experience of what the war means for the country’s civilian population.
And yet, 100 Limmud FSU Ukraine volunteers gathered in the Polish capital for a unique event of Jewish learning, that offered sessions on a wide variety of topics – from tours of Jewish Warsaw and the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, through a discussion of who the Land of Israel truly belongs to and a master class on how to draw amusingly, to an examination of what makes a work of art a masterpiece and a discussion of Kabbala as a source to help understand real life problems and find a solution for them.
“People in Ukraine are suffering,” said participant Evgeny Schneider; “We are without water, without electricity, without basic goods,” a description of daily life in the country echoed by many of the participants in the three-day conference of Jewish learning and community joy. For Lisa Fersanova, Limmud FSU program director, who has been mounting Jewish programming for those Jews who have, like her, remained in Kiev throughout the war, these three days are “an opportunity to see my friends, to learn about the Jewish history of Poland and Warsaw, and to learn about my own Jewish roots.”
“It is a really special seminar,” said Limmud FSU founder, Chaim Chesler; “we can show that we care about our volunteers. We are giving them ammunition – ideological ammunition, educational ammunition, ammunition from the joy of being together.”
“It is a very special and meaningful Limmud FSU event for me personally,” reflected the organization’s co-founder, Sandy Cahn. “It is a monumental feat for us to gather Ukrainian Jews from across Europe, from Israel, from Ukraine itself. Participants really want to have a Limmud conference like those they remember, replete with learning sessions, fun, meaning, spirituality. If we can provide this, it makes me so happy.”
“For me,” reflected participant Inna Slutskaya simply, “It is an opportunity to see my friends, to have a hug; these three days are like a fresh breeze for all of us.”
Limmud FSU was founded in 2006 by Chaim Chesler and Sandy Cahn, and is led by its Chair, Matthew Bronfman, President, Aaron G. Frenkel, and Executive Director Natasha Chechik. It is also supported by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, Jewish National Fund – Keren Kayemet leIsrael, Wilf Family Foundation, WJC International Yiddish center, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and others.