This past weekend (October 31 – November 3), more than 600 members of the Jewish community of Ukraine gathered for the 13th annual volunteer-driven festival of Jewish learning organized by Limmud FSU. The event took place once again and for the fifth time in Odessa, one of the most important cities of Jewish and Zionist movement’s history, after a highly successful 2017’s event.
There are about 400,000 Jews in Ukraine, with more than 45,000 in Odessa. Moreover, this year marks 100 years since the departure of the “Ruslan” ship from Odessa, on board of which there were dozens of Jewish cultural figures of that time - those who were destined to determine the intellectual life of Israel. A special exhibition on the event was presented at the conference, as well as some lectures on the topic.
Among keynote speakers were Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, former Deputy President of the Supreme Court of Israel and Attorney General; Dorit Golender, Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG) Vice-President for External Relations and former Israeli Ambassador to Russia; Felix Gurvich, Advisor to the Embassy of the State in Ukraine, Director of the Representative offices of Nativ in Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Central Asia and the Caucasus region; Gary Aidekman, JDC Board member from the United States; Gideon Mitchnik, Ze’ev Jabotinsky's institute director; Dr. Igor Shchupak, Director of “Tkuma” - the Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies; legendary actor Veniamin Smekhov (Moscow); Ilya Axelrod, a noted comedian (Israel); Yevgeny Kogan, president of the Moscow Partners investment group (Moscow) and many more.
Osik Akselrud, Limmud FSU Ukraine Chair and Director of Hillel in Ukraine added: “Limmud FSU is all about the people, knowledge, communication and a vivid example of community life. In Odessa, more than 600 people from 14 countries of the world took part in our annual event, including many of young adults, which is extremely important to Hillel, and our whole community as well.”
Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU, said; “It is a great honor for us to be here again, in the historical city of Odessa, and to celebrate this Limmud FSU festival with a wonderful, prosperous local Jewish community.”
The Deputy Mayor of Odessa Pavel Vugelman told the participants during the opening event on Thursday night: “To host Limmud FSU is a great honor for us. The best people of the world come to Odessa, share their experiences, educate our youth and pass on the centuries-old wisdom of the Jewish people. We are pleased that such distinguished guests visit us, thereby glorifying our long Jewish history, strengthening our ties with the state of Israel, with the Israeli cultural center "Nativ", which is one of the landmark projects in the city.”
Dorit Golender: "It is highly symbolic and appropriate that Limmud FSU comes to Odessa - the historical center of Jewish national and intellectual revival, the city from which the pioneering spirit of Russian Jewry came all the way to the Land of Israel. Genesis Philanthropy Group, whose main mission is to develop and enhance the Jewish identity of Russian-speaking Jews, is happy to support Limmud FSU - one of the leading initiatives of Russian-speaking Jews worldwide."
Mila Gold (20) from Dnepr: “It’s my first time at Limmud FSU, and I’m simply amazed by the energy, the quality of the program and the atmosphere. It really makes you proud of your Jewishness.”
Limmud FSU Ukraine was made possible thanks to the team of local leaders and volunteers, led by Project Manager Galina Rybnikova and Limmud FSU executive director Roman Kogan, together with the volunteers’ committee chair, Dasha Yefimenko from Rovno; program committee chair, Valeria Ogorodnik from Uzhgorod; public relations and marketing committee chair, Zhenya Khorzhevskiy from Odessa; the participants’ experience committee chair, Olena Kolpakova from Dnepr; and others.
The festival enjoyed the generous support of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), All-Ukrainian Jewish congress headed by Vadim Rabinovich, Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee – JDC, Nativ – Israel Prime-minister’s office, the Claims Conference, Joel Passick, and other Limmud FSU International funders.