NEW YORK, May 22, 2022: This past weekend, Limmud FSU mounted its first three-day conference in North America since the outbreak of the pandemic. Some 500 Jews from the New York area and East Coast, primarily young adults and young families, gathered in Parsippany, New Jersey for “Limmud FSU ReCharge”, a weekend-long festival of Jewish learning.
The conference featured a wide variety of speakers on an even wider variety of topics – from readings of poetry and short stories to a discussion of antisemitism in the pandemic era, to Europe to Jewish thought and scientific discoveries in the early modern era, with other sessions offering jewelry making, a look at nanotechnology, climate change, polar exploration, and exotic fruits.
Inevitably, there were sessions that discussed the geo-political situation in the countries of the FSU, while also presenting local volunteer-based activities and a special fundraiser to help refugees from Ukraine in USA and elsewhere.
In his overview of “The State of the Jews: Challenges and Strains in Today's World,” Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, discussed antisemitism as we come out of the pandemic; Ukraine – what it means for the geopolitical situation, Israel's foreign relations, and the Jewish world; and Iran, while a complementary overview of the specific challenges facing Israel were provided by veteran Israeli journalist and the Jewish Agency representative in Canada, Yaron Dekel, in a session entitled “Israel's Realpolitik and Moral Dilemmas in Times of World Crisis: Walking a Thin Line.”
“It was inspiring but sobering,” commented Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler. “As the world truly seems to be emerging from the ravages of the pandemic and we could return to full-scale face to face programming, the conference took place against the painful and profoundly upsetting background of the ravaging war in Ukraine.”
“It was a true celebration of common identity and Jewish heritage,” said Limmud FSU co-founder Sandy Cahn, “an opportunity for Jews to learn together about Judaism and contemporary issues facing the Jewish – and wider – world, rejoice in our Jewish roots and shared Jewish future, dance and sing together, and nurture Jewish community and the concept of belonging together.”
Limmud FSU was founded in 2006, and is led by its Chair, Matthew Bronfman, and President, Aaron G. Frenkel. Since then, over 75 events have been mounted by 13 volunteer teams, and Limmud FSU events and have reached out over these years to some 80,000 Jews across the globe. It is also supported by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, Jewish National Fund – Keren Kayemet leIsrael, World Zionist Organization, Blavatnik Family Foundation, Wilf Family Foundation, philanthropists Diane Wohl, Tom Blumberg and others.
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, Natasha Chechik, US project manager, Noam Shumakh-Khaimov, chairs/volunteers Alina Bitel, Elman Isakov, Nina Faynberg and many more.