February 10, 2020
This week for the first time, a joint regional Limmud FSU/Nahum Goldmann Fellowship meeting took place in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, with the participation of young Jews from across the former Soviet Union. During an intensive three days, the young participants, Jewish professionals and lay leaders, confronted and debated issues and questions relevant to their own communities and to future Jewish identity and Jewish community in the FSU.
Limmud FSU has a growing network of volunteers living within the former Soviet Union who are committed to developing their own personal Jewish journey. The Nahum Goldmann Fellowship (NGF) has a large network of alumni living in the FSU who are looking for opportunities for regional and global connection, leadership development, and continued Jewish education. This partnership was born with the goal of enriching and inspiring NGF alumni, Limmud FSU volunteers and new participants alike and for creating the opportunity for cross-communal and cross-country collaborations
Several leading international scholars joined scholars from local communities to speak at the meeting, including Prof. Moshe Halbertal, Professor of Jewish Thought and Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Dr. Anna Shternshis, Professor of Yiddish Studies at the University of Toronto; Dr. Dmitry Maryasis, Director-General of the Russia-Israel Business Council, Rabbi Grisha Abramovich, Chief Rabbi of the Religious Union for Progressive Judaism in Belarus; and others.
The program for the meeting, which was conducted in Russian and English, was based on the NGF model that has proven remarkably successful for over three decades in forging powerful connections between members of the Global NGF network, thus motivating them to further involvement in Jewish communal life. The program was constructed by an organizing committee consisting of NGF alumni from the FSU and Limmud FSU volunteers, overseen by Roman Kogan, Executive Director of Limmud FSU and Rabbi Jeni Friedman, Executive Vice-President of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture (the organization that runs the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship).
One of the participants, Talina Nechamkina from Vilnius, said: “For me the Fellowship was a unique opportunity to expand my knowledge, and to get to know new people with a mind-set similar to mine. I shall return home with a much stronger sense of what is involved today to be a Jewish community leader.” Alex Furs, fromMinsk added, “it was very special to be present in such a heart-warming atmosphere, and to be able to communicate our thoughts about the future of theJewish community in the FSU in such an innovative and inspiring way. The experience and knowledge I gained will be useful for me in my future engagement with my own local community.”
ExecutiveDirector of Limmud FSU, Roman Kogan stated, “We are very proud of this joint project and for the partnership with the MFJC. Although the mandates of our organizations are different, there is much that we share regarding ideology, philosophy and attitude towards Jewish communal and educational life, including pluralism, the value of learning, respect for different views, and we are happy to help facilitate this educational platform for the participants and volunteers”.
“The Regional Nahum Goldmann Fellowships create an opportunity for participants to reflect on their contemporary reality and experience inJewish communal life, and discuss with their peers issues of Jewish identity,”said Executive Vice-President of the MFJC, Rabbi Jeni Friedman. “Each program is an immersive experience offering deep learning opportunities and creating meaningful connections crossing geographical, ideological and denominational divides. We are grateful for our partnership with Limmud FSU, which is bringing back to the region a new generation of Jewish professional and communal lay leaders.”