During the event, a large anti – BDS protest took place in the center of the campus, led by prominent Jewish world figures such as Limmud FSU Chair Matthew Bronfman and Rabbi Marc Schneier.
The program of the conference included dozens of lectures, sessions, panels and performances on wide range of topics. Among them: a panel with the businessmen and philanthropists Leonard Blavatnik and Matthew Bronfman, session of the outspoken transgender activist and a former Hasidic Rabbi Abby Stein on her life journey, special session by Professor Alan Dershowitz on BDS and Israel, and Howard Rosenman, who told his story as an academy award winning gay Jewish producer. Other speakers at the event included Boris Burda from Ukraine, Ruta Vanagaite from Lithuania fashion designer Leonid Gurevich, IDF senior Grisha Yakubovich from Israel and more.
Founder of Limmud FSU, Chaim Chesler: “We’re are extremely happy to be here for the first time ever in the Columbia University, on the 70 th anniversary of Israel, to celebrate with hundreds of despite the helpless BDS efforts to boycott the Jewish state”.
Supporters of the event included Genesis Philanthropy Group, Claims Conference, IDB Bank, Tom Blumberg and Covenant Foundation, that supported the event with a brand- new grant for volunteer education and leadership training program for United States based Limmud FSU volunteers. The first activity was held in COJECO on May 3 (Pre- conference volunteers learning session).
In the best tradition of Limmud FSU, the event was made possible by its team of local leaders and volunteers, including the Project Manager Noam Shumakh – Khaimov, co- chairs Alina Bitel and Roman Sidler, as well as volunteers committee chairEstee Bardanashvili, programming committee chair Nina Faynberg and many others.
Sandy Cahn, Limmud FSU co-founder said that “Thanks to the Covenant foundation grant, we have begun to create an enhanced network of young leaders who are educated in Jewish history, heritage, and culture, and who have the connections, skills, and tools to shape the future of the Russian-speaking Jewish community in the United States.”
The program included more than 250 sessions on wide range of topics, and also – for the first time – a special full program for children, with a wide selection of activities each hour, for 2 different age groups. In total, the conference included more than 350 different lectures, sessions, panels and performances.
Keynote speakers at the conference included Russia’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, Israel’s Minister of Aliyah and Integration Sofa Landver, Limmud FSU President Aaron G. Frenkel, Israeli Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren, former Israeli Ambassador to Russia Dorit Golender, who is vice president of Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), Head of Nativ Netta Briskin - Peleg, acclaimed composer Sergey Nikitin, TV journalist Nikolay Svanidze and many more. Supporters of the event included Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), Nativ, Claims Conference, Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and more.
Founder of Limmud FSU, Chaim Chesler: “We’re are extremely happy to be here, right after Israel’s 70 anniversary, to celebrate with more than 2,000 youngsters at our flagships event for the 12th time”. Sandy Cahn, Limmud FSU co-founder added that “we hope to continue to grow and strengthen our amazing community here in Moscow, it’s truly inspiring.”
Daria (25) from Moscow: “It’s my first time at Limmud FSU. I was told by friend that it’s an amazing event that I have to experience, and after these 3 days I feel so lucky that I decided to come. This is the most powerful Jewish event I’ve ever been to here in Russia.”
In the best tradition of Limmud, the event was made possible by its team of local leaders and volunteers, including the Project Manager Galina Murakhovskaya, Mikhail Libkin, Alexandra Livergant, Alexander Piatigorskiy, and others.
This morning, several hundred residents of this small Polish town, the birth place of David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the State of Israel, took place in a procession to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence this coming Wednesday. The local citizens including children and teenagers participated in the procession and the official ceremony that followed.
The event, which was organized by Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union), the March of the Living, and the Municipality of Plonsk, was joined by the Chief Rabbi ofPoland, Michael Schudrich, Anna Azari, Israel’s ambassador to Poland and was led by the Mayor of Plonsk, Andrzej Pietrasik.
The marchers passed several of the way stations of Ben Gurion’s early life including a square named after him in the same spot where was the house in which he was born in 1886, and the home of his uncle in which he lived for most of his childhood before immigrating to Israel in 1906.
During the ceremony, the youngsters performed dances in traditional costume including to the strains of Israeli tunes such as Hava Nagila. Speeches were delivered by local and Israeli dignitaries including Schudrich, Azari, Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU, the deputy chair of March of the Living, Aharon Tamir and the town’s priest, Rev. Edmond Makovsky.
Rabbi Michael Schudrich said: “Today in this moving ceremony in Plonsk, we have witnessed the true Poland, and the reverse side of the true relations betweenPoland and Israel. A quiet and dignified procession, its face turned toward peace and brotherhood, with no counter demonstrations and without strain and tension. It is not at all clear that such an event could have taken place today in Paris, Stockholm or London.”
Schudrich added; “What we have seen in this ceremony today is the Poland with whom we need to work together and to nurture the relationship. It is true that there are some problems, but there are also solutions – today’s event is part of the solution.”
In the framework of the summit’s various exciting activities made possible thanks to UJA- Federation of New York and L.A Pincus Fund, one of the panels was in particular intriguing - Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, Israel’s Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari, Limmud FSU Chairman Matthew Bronfman and AJC Central Europe Director Agnieszka Markiewicz spoke about the infamous Poland’s Holocaust law during a special session on the sensitive topic:
“Some of the Jewish responses to the Polish law were irresponsible” stated Schudrich in front of young participants from 9 countries. “To say that all the Poles are anti-Semites is not true. it’s hurtful.” Bronfman said during the discussion that “my greatest fear about the law is that it’s a part of something larger, and it’s not just an isolated moment. I truly fear the wave of nationalism around Europe as a whole.”
Other activities at the 5-day summit included leadership development sessions, learning about different approaches to crowdfunding and fundraising for non-profits, open space sessions with a goal of experience sharing, a session about community engagement between conferences, visiting the new POLIN museum which presents the history of the Polish Jews, and many more.
Founder of Limmud FSU Chaim Chesler said: “The goal of the Summit is to enable activists and volunteers to meet colleagues and to share knowledge and experience in an atmosphere of joint learning and study.” Sandy Cahn, the co-founder, added that the summit was taking place “with the aim of reinforcing identity, cultural, intellectual and spiritual engagement among the organization’s key personnel.”
“There were the most meaningful, emotional and educational 5 days”, said Irina Kolomey from West Coast, “I can’t believe how much we did and how little sleep we’ve got. I’ve had a chance to meet and interact with the most interesting people of similar background, working on similar project, thinking about the same issues. I actually made it to the summit in the last minute. And every night this week, as I came back to my room, I would say to my roommate – I can’t believe I could’ve missed it!”
The entrepreneur and philanthropist, Aaron G. Frenkel, President of Limmud FSU, said during the ceremony: "I light this torch in memory of my family members - grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, daughters and sons, and to my mother Fruma who was a prisoner here in Auschwitz-Birkenau. May their soul will be bound up in the bundle of life."
International businessman and Chair of the Limmud FSU Steering Committee, Matthew Bronfman, said that his late father, Edgar Bronfman, former President of the World Jewish Congress, had fought for years for the rights of Jewish people worldwide: "I light this torch on behalf of all the volunteers of Limmud FSU, and in the name of the Jewish people who suffered beyond the power of imagination in this very place. I stand here in the shadow of my father who fought long and hard to restore honor and dignity to each and every Jew around the world."
Bronfman and Frenkel were speaking on behalf of 60 Limmud FSU activists and volunteers from the USA, Russia, Israel, Canada, Ukraine, Australia, Belarus, EU and Moldova, who are meeting for the organization’s Global Leadership Summit, that took place in the past weekend in Warsaw.
Limmud FSU’s participation in the “March of the Living” was made possible thanks to its Chairman Shmuel Rosenman and Deputy Chair, Aaron Tamir.
The Chamber was the first museum devoted to the Holocaust in Israel and was established in 1949. The event was initiated by Limmud FSU, together with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany and March of the Living.
Oskar Schindler died in 1974, and at his request, was buried in the Catholic Franciscan cemetery on Mount Zion, near to the Chamber of the Holocaust. During the first years after its establishment, the Chamber served as a symbolic cemetery, and its walls were covered by survivors with memorial plaques to their destroyed communities.
The event began at the cemetery, with a short ceremony next to Schindler’s grave. The daughter of a Schindler’s list survivor Yaakov Lazar, Lily Haber, who also serves as chairman of Krakow survivors organization, said that "Schindler saved not only 1,200 Jews while endangering his life, but tens of thousands of souls, descendants of the survivors. We must cherish and remember him."
Following the ceremony, a plaque honoring Schindler was unveiled in the Chamber of the Holocaust, and a special candle lightning took place in memory of the victims. Chaim Chesler, Limmud FSU founder and the initiator of the event, said that "the Chamber of the Holocaust is the place where the ashes of 250,000 Jews murdered in the Holocaust were buried, and this is the right place to commemorate one of the greatest Righteous Among the Nations."
Survivors and several senior officials took part in the ceremony, among them representative of the Catholic Franciscan church, Father Alberto(Italy), Vice-President of the Claims Conference in Israel, Shlomo Gur, Chairman of March of the Living, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, Former Chief Rabbi of Romania Rabbi Menachem Hacohen, Chairman of the Chamber of the Holocaust, Rabbi Yitzhak Goldstein, CEO of Amigur Yuval Frenkel and others.
Holocaust survivor, Bronia Shkolnik (86), said that "this event is very moving - to be here in the State of Israel and to cherish the memory of those people who saved so many souls”.
Shlomo Gur, vice president of the Claims Conference in Israel, said: "The award of the title of Righteous Among the Nations is an atonement to Oscar Schindler, whose memory has been forgotten over the years. The event today is a tribute to the courage he displayed in rescuing the 1,200 Jews, we must continue to remember and not to forget."
The representative of the Catholic Franciscan Church in Israel, Father Alberto (Italy) said during the ceremony that "There is no doubt that Oskar Schindler serves as a symbol for the Righteous Among the Nations, whom we must remember and cherish”.
Rabbi Yitzhak Goldstein, chairman of the Chamber of the Holocaust, said after a prayer in Schindler's memory that "it is not self-evident that so many Jews have come here today to honor Schindler's memory, and this is clear proof of the greatness of his actions.
EILAT, Israel, Dec.18 – Limmud FSU Israel will mark a decade of educational work with young Russian-speaking Jews in the Holy Land with a three-day Jewish volunteer-driven festival of learning in Israel’s southernmost city, Eilat. The dynamic and pluralistic event will gather 2,000 participants and will run starting Thursday through Saturday night (December 21-23, 2017).
The 10th Limmud FSU Israel festival will feature hundreds of lectures, workshops, presentations and discussions by leading figures, including Member of Knesset Yair Lapid (Chairman of “Yesh Atid”), Avi Gabbay (Chairman of “HaMachane HaTzioni ”), Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau, 20th Chief of Staff of the IDF General Benny (Benyamin) Ganz, Likud’s party member and former minister Gideon Saar , businessman and philanthropist Aaron Frenkel, who is president of Limmud FSU, CEO and Executive-Vice President of the World Jewish Congress Robert Singer, the singers Shlomi Shaban and Marina Maximilian who will perform at the opening ceremony, Professor Zeev Khanin, Dr. Gadi Taub, Holocaust survivor Shlomo Perel, theatre director Mark Rozovsky from Moscow and others.
“Over the past decade, we truly have made a huge impact in Russian-Jewish community in Israel, which is one of the biggest communities in the country,” said Limmud FSU Founder Chaim Chesler. “We’re extremely excited to come back once again to Eilat, one of the world’s most beautiful resort cities, to celebrate our 10th anniversary in Israel with 2,000 young participants, our devoted team of talented volunteers, leading Israeli public figures and dozens of well-known lecturers and experts.”
“The World Jewish Congress, which represents 100 Jewish communities worldwide, is proud to share with Limmud FSU this critical mission of strengthening Jewish identity, community, historical memory, and engagement, both in the Diaspora and the State of Israel,” said CEO and Executive-Vice President of the World Jewish Congress Robert Singer, one of the speakers at the upcoming event. “Just think: Thirty years ago, a gathering like this of Jewish activists from what is now the former Soviet Union would have been impossible. We are in fact one global Jewish community, and we are strongest when we work together and empower one another. The future of the Jewish world depends on us all.”
The first Jews appeared in St. Petersburg right after its foundation in the 18th century. Today it is one of the most vibrant, flourishing Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union, with roughly 100,000 Jews, making it the second-largest Jewish community in Russia. Also, the cultural, social, and religious life in the Jewish community of the city showcases a very active and exciting place to explore with Limmud FSU. Annual conferences, started in 2011, reflect high intellectual caliber and cultural-oriented programming, as one would expect from a Jewish learning festival held in Russia’s cultural capital.
“We are extremely excited to be a part of one of the most vibrant and flourishing Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, with a rich cultural life” saidChaim Chesler,founder ofLimmudFSU, during the conference.
Limmud FSU St. Petersburg featured lectures, workshops, and discussions in the pluralistic spirit of Limmud. “This is our sixth event in Saint Petersburg, which is an important millstone for us and for the entire Jewish community in the area,” said Sandra F. Cahn, co-founder of Limmud FSU.
Euro-Asian Jewish Congress President Mikhail Mirilashvili also congratulated the participants and expressed his commitment to the project: “We are pleased to be active partners of Limmud FSU. EAJC is committed to ensuring that community institutions actively participate in all stages of the event, and that participants would receive information and motivation to become active members of the community life after the conference. In Limmud FSU St. Petersburg this year was just the exact atmosphere, and we’re extremely happy for it”.
The top presenters this year included Linor Goralik, a Russian-speaking flash fiction author, poet and essayist, Elhanan Nir, Israeli poet and laureate of international and Israeli literary honors including: the Wertheim Prize (2008) and the Prime Minister’s Prize (2011), Olga Slov, consul general of the State of Israel, Haim Ben Yacov, executive director of Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Yana Agmon, regional director of "Nativ" in Russia and Belarus, Dmitry Dikman, senior advisor to the chairman of the board at Genesis Philanthropy Group, Dr. Aaron Weiss from JDC’s FSU Department, Director of the Orthodox Community of Saint Petersburg Rabbi Shaul Brook and more.
"I flew especially to Limmud St. Petersburg to see how it is done in another country,” says Daniel Jezmer, 25, a volunteer from Israel,” I wanted to share experiences and adopt some ideas and initiatives for the Israeli Limmud FSU, which I have been involved in for four years, and also was happy for the opportunity to meet old friends and benefit from the weekend. I was struck by Rami Sherman's lecture about the hostage-taking operation in Entebbe, could not even hope to get personally acquainted and communicate with the participant in this operation, so I’m especially grateful for it. "
Limmud FSU St. Petersburg was made possible thanks to its devoted team of volunteers, led by Yulia Karasik, Natalia Emelyanova, Regina Pritula, Iulia Anokhina, Faina Rokhlina and others. Conference supporters include Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Genesis Philanthropy Group, JDC, Jewish Religious Community, Nativ, Jewish Culture House ESOD, Russian Jewish Congress, Community of Progressive Judaism “Sha’arey Shalom”.
“The format of Limmud, which is based on the freedom of election of each participant, cannot characterize better the multifaceted modern Israel” says Yana Agmon, regional director of "Nativ" in Russia and Belarus,” and it provides an opportunity to plunge into the realities of modern Israeli society. We are pleased to see how the Jewish community of St. Petersburg acquaints itself with topics related to Israel and meets with Israeli representatives”.
“We’re attracted by existing projects where people are united by their interest in their Jewish roots and history,” said Dmitry Dikman, senior advisor to the chairman of the board at Genesis Philanthropy Group, “In this sense Limmud FSU conferences gather the most relevant audience for us - they unite students, families with children, lecturers and volunteers for several days. If the participants are left with a feeling that they spent an educational and informative weekend, we’re considering our task fulfilled”.
“I feel grateful, and wanted to thank all the volunteers” says Julia Presman, participant at the event, just before the closing ceremony “you can actually see and fell the spark in their eyes”.
Some 800 Jews gathered this weekend (November 17-19) for the first ever Limmud FSU West Coast 2017 conference in the San Francisco Bay Area, the biggest Jewish event geared towards the Russian-speaking Jewish community in the whole region. It took place at Marriott City Center Oakland, after months of work done by a devoted team of young adult volunteers and leadership, and featured an array of more than 100 diverse sessions and speakers from around the world on various subjects, with a special focus on the field of innovation, hi-tech and technology.
The exciting event kicked off on Friday with a ceremony honoring former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who was deeply involved in the struggle of Soviet Jewry during the 1980’s and 90’s when immigration from USSR was denied. Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in Soviet prisons, Israeli Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis and the Claims Conference President Rabbi Julius Berman presented Shultz with an honorary award.
Among the featured presenters at the conference were the Jewish-Ukrainian born WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, with a special Q&A session that was attended by hundreds of the participants, first Jewish astronaut Garrett Reisman, who gave a highly anticipated lecture about his experience in space, Historian Prof. Deborah Lipstadt about Holocaust denial and the rising Antisemitism, Israel’s Consul General to the Pacific North West Shlomi Kofman, Undervud band from Russia, and more.
Another highlight of the event was the launch of a special exhibition “Shimon Peres – Vision and Innovation”, produced by Limmud FSU together with the late president’s family and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. Tsvia Walden, Peres’ daughter, curated the exhibition.
“The Russian-speaking Jewish community in the West Coast is flourishing, and this milestone - a record number of participants in our first ever event in the Bay Area – is the proof of it,” said Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler, “we also were very honored to be the chosen spot where such exciting events, as the launch of the late President Peres exhibition and honoring George Shultz”.
This event could not have happened without the generous support of Koret Foundation, Jim Joseph Foundation, Fooksman Family Charitable Fund, Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), Israeli Consulate General of the Pacific Northwest, World Jewish Congress, Claims Conference, Jewish Community Foundation of East Bay, Ukrainian Jewish Encounter and other donors and partners.
"Our previous West Coast 2016 conference in Los Angeles was such a great experience that the decision to have our next Limmud FSU conference in the Bay area was an easy one”, said the co-founder of Limmud FSU, Sandra Cahn,” and this year’s strong lineup and remarkable attendance is another testimony of the powerful appeal of Jewish learning in a pluralistic, dynamic and engaging environment”.
Leo Hmelnitsky, the chair of Limmud FSU West Coast organizing committee: “I want to thank all volunteers who dedicated countless hours over the last year developing an incredibly rich program and working on all the logistics for the conference. Our main goal was and will continue to be inspiring participants to strengthen their Jewish identity, to learn about and celebrate our heritage, to connect to Israel and many local Jewish organizations, and to ultimately take the next step on their personal Jewish journey.”
Some 950 people are expected to gather over this weekend (October 19-22) for Limmud FSU Ukraine, the biggest event geared towards the Jewish community in the country. The event will take place in Odessa, one of the most important cities of Jewish and Zionist movement’s history in the former Soviet Union. Today there are about 400,000 Jews living in Ukraine, with more than 45,000 in Odessa.
Limmud FSU Ukraine, the dynamic and pluralistic Jewish festival of culture, creativity and learning, will feature an array of more than 180 world-class speakers from around the world on a multitude of subjects ranging from art, to Jewish culture and tradition, literature, music, theater, history, politics, business and lifestyle.
The event will feature an official ceremony and a concert celebrating Bob Dylan, one of the most prominent Jewish composers and musicians of our time. Dylan’s paternal mother, Anna Zimmerman, together with her husband Zigman, emigrated from Odessa to the US in 1910. The event will also include an exhibition on Dylan’s life “Forever young: behind Dylan's revolution and legacy”, created by the Museum of Diaspora in Tel Aviv, and presented by one of its curators, Amitai Achiman.
Special recognition will be given to the 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress of 1897, to be celebrated this year, including a concert and several activities relating to the World Zionist Organization, with the participation of WZO Chair, Avraham Duvdevani. A commemorative plaque will be unveiled on the house where the distinguished Hebrew poet, Shaul Tchernichovsky, lived, in the framework of an official ceremony made possible by the efforts of Nativ and WZO.
“The Ukrainian-Jewish community is among the most thriving Jewish communities in the world, while the city of Odessa is one of the most important cities in Jewish history. We confidently expect that this Limmud FSU 11th festival in Ukraine will be an important part in the life of the Jewish community,” said founder Chaim Chesler, “and we look forward to an inspiring gathering, especially the celebration of Bob Dylan’s Jewish roots in Odessa.”
Among the presenters will be Israel's ambassador to Ukraine Eliav Belotserkovsky; Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG) Vice-President for External Relations and former Israeli Ambassador to Russia, Dorit Golender; Executive Director of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Haim Ben Yakov; Nativ's countrty director for Ukraine Gennady Polischuk; Director of The Ukrainian Institute for the Study of the Holocaust Tkuma, Igor Shchupak; Board Member of Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter Adrian Karatnycky, popular Russian satirist and writer, Victor Shenderovich, Israeli singer Eric Berman and many more.
This event takes place with the generous support of Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), Ukrainian Jewish Encounter (UJE), Nativ, Claims Conference and All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress.
"The key to Limmud's success lies in its unique combination of learning, recreation and communication, which harmoniously unite and create a unique “Limmud” atmosphere, says Osik Axelrod, the Chairman of Limmud FSU Ukraine.
More than 1,500 residents of the city of Sighet in northern Romania marched tonight (Sunday), together with senior officials from Israel and abroad and members of the Jewish community in Romania, in an event commemorating Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The procession marked the culmination of a unique series of special events held in the city in memory of Wiesel. The events were organized by Limmud FSU and March of the Living in cooperation with the Claims Conference and the World Zionist Organization.
The special procession left Elie Wiesel's home and continued through the city until it reached the railway station from which Wiesel, his family and Jews from the entire region were sent to the Auschwitz death camp. This was the same route taken by the Jews, including the Wiesel family, in May 1944. During the ceremony, a memorial plaque was unveiled and the name of the train station was changed to “Elie Wiesel Station. ״
The event was attended by senior figures from Israel and the world, prominent rabbis, politicians and others, including MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid Party); Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel (Likud); JNF Chairman Danny Atar; Executive President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany Greg Schneider; President of the Romanian Jewish Community Dr. Aurel Vainer; outgoing Deputy Vice President of the Supreme Court Elyakim Rubinstein; and Dr. Zvi Berkovich, Honorary consul of Romania in Israel, and the Prime Minister's physician.
MK Yair Lapid, who was among the speakers at the unveiling of the memorial plaque at the train station, said: “We came here to pay our respects to the late Elie Weisel, a dear person whose private memory has become the collective memory of an entire people. Elie Wiesel was a close friend of my father's, and I had known him and his work since childhood. We are here to honor him for his contribution to the memory of the Holocaust, the fight against anti-Semitism and his work for the State of Israel. ״
Lapid also referred to the increasing phenomenon of anti-Semitism, particularly in the United States: “I believe that Trump is a true supporter of Israel, but I must admit that I was deeply disappointed by his lack of adequate response to the horrific expressions of anti-Semitism, which remind us all of the darkest periods in history and bring us back to the 1930s in Europe. ״
Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel said at the event: “Unfortunately, we still find ourselves having to deal with the hatred of Holocaust deniers and their supporters, the constant manifestation of anti-Semitism and the dangers caused by the ignorance of many. Therefore, it is our duty to continue this struggle waged by Elie Wiesel against hatred, fanaticism, and demons of the past.״
Sandra F. Cahn, co-founder of Limmud FSU said during the event that :” We fulfilled tonight our commitment to Limmud FSU’s mentor, Elie Wiesel, to present the opportunity to the people of Sighet commemorate the memory of its most prominent and admired citizen”.
Dr. Zvi Berkovich, Honorary consul of Romania in Israel, the Prime Minister's physician, and son of Holocaust survivors from the city of Sighetu Marmației, delivered a special message from Prime Minister Netanyahu: “Benjamin Netanyahu deeply appreciated Elie Wiesel and his work. He hopes that events of this kind will be held every year, helping to emphasize the importance of the universal messages Elie Wiesel promoted worldwide - tolerance, brotherhood, and the obligation to remember and never forget”.
Over 300 young Jewish Moldovans gathered yesterday, in Chisinau, Moldova, for a day-long Limmud FSU festival, where they commemorated the life of Elie Wiesel. Limmud FSU Moldova, which is geared towards Russian-speaking Jews, featured an array of world-class programs and international speakers.
The events in Wiesel’s honor took place in the Chisinau Chabad Lubavitch Synagogue, the only local congregation that remains active today in a city that before the Holocaust housed more than 70 synagogues. The Wiesel event included a special Kaddish by Rabbi Zushe Abelsky (the son of the former Chief Rabbi of Moldova Zalman Abelsky), with Rabbi Mandy Axelrod; President of the Jewish Community of Moldova and the Honorary Chair of Limmud FSU Moldova Alexander Bilinkis; Limmud FSU Founder Chaim Chesler; and the man closest to Elie Wiesel for many years and the founder of his archive at Boston University, Dr. Joel Rappel, who delivered the keynote speech.
Limmud FSU Moldova, a dynamic and pluralistic Jewish festival of culture, creativity and learning, proved to be one of the organization’s largest local Jewish gatherings in recent years. The gathering, which took place at the JCC Kedem, included over 60 sessions and 50 speakers from around the world, with workshops and discussions on subjects ranging from art to Jewish culture and tradition, history, politics, academics, business and lifestyles. Limmud FSU Moldova, which was sponsored by the Claims Conference, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Nativ, the Jewish Community of Moldova, and others, explored such diverse topics as Jewish views of astrology and superstition, childrearing, demystifying Shabbat, and religious Zionism.
Among the featured presenters were Minister of Culture of Moldova Monika Babuk; Chairman of the Board of the Jewish Museum and Center of Tolerance in Moscow Rabbi Boruch Gorin; popular Russian-Israeli comedian Ilia Akselrod, Director of the Russian Department at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Sam Kliger, First Secretary of the Israel Embassy in the Republic of Moldova and head of the Israel Cultural Center (Nativ) Mark Basin, and many others. Emmanuil Grinshpun, chair of the board of the Jewish community of Moldova was also in attendance.
“There is no doubt that Limmud FSU has become an important element in the Moldova Jewish community, not just in providing events packed with Jewish content, but also for the many people who have joined us as volunteers working on the planning, programming, logistics and administration of all our events” said Chesler at the opening ceremony. “Through this, we’re happy to be nurturing a new generation of leaders who are creating and revitalizing the Jewish community in Moldova.”
“Since its inaugural conference in Moscow in 2006, Limmud FSU events have attracted more than 50,000 participants in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Israel, North America, Western Europe and Australia,” said Limmud FSU Co-founder Sandra F. Cahn. “We hope that our conferences in Moldova will continue to bring a spirit of intellectual freedom to young Jews in a liberal, pluralistic, egalitarian, non-demanding and gender-free atmosphere of study – the personification of the Hebrew word ‘Limmud’ in its widest possible sense.”
This Limmud FSU Moldova was made possible by a team of local leaders and volunteers, including Marina Shuster, Kolea Railean, Julia Sheinman and Galina Rybnikova.
Some 1,000 gathered this weekend for Limmud FSU New York, the biggest event geared towards the Russian-speaking Jewish community in the Tri-State area. Yesterday, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., opened an exhibition on Leonard Cohen’s life and Jewish roots.
Speaking at the conference’s opening ceremony at the Hilton Westchester on Friday, Lowey expressed her support for the State of Israel.
“I sit on the House Appropriations Committee, and I’m a member of the subcommittee that oversees foreign aid,” said Lowey. “We’re just starting the bill for 2018, and the only thing I can be sure of is that the money for Israel – foreign aid and military assistance – will be secure because there's strong bipartisan support and I'm proud of that.”
There are currently an estimated 200,000 Russian Jews in the Tri-State area and 700,000 in the United States. Limmud FSU New York is a dynamic and pluralistic Jewish festival of culture, creativity and learning featuring more than 80 inspiring speakers and 120 panels, workshops and discussions on subjects ranging from art, to Jewish culture and tradition, history, politics, academics, business and lifestyles.
Sponsored by the Koret Foundation and Blavatnik Family Foundation, Limmud FSU New York explored a broad array of topics including Israel in the era of Trump, Jewish views of astrology and superstition, raising children in a diverse world, demystifying Shabbat, and religious Zionism. Top Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb gave a special performance during the tribute to Leonard Cohen.
“Aside form his remarkable musical achievements, Leonard was very much connected to his Jewish identity and roots, making him a role model for Jews across the world,” said Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler.
Among the featured presenters were Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan; Member of Knesset Yoel Hasson; UJA-Federation of New York Director of Learning and Development and Jewish Parent Co-Founder Yelena Kutikova; American rabbi and bestselling author Joseph Telushkin; Muslim interfaith activist Nadiya Al-Noor; Abby Stein, the first openly transgender woman raised in the Hasidic community; acclaimed Russian animator Oleg Kuvaev; and many others.
“This inspiring gathering contributes to the incredible vitality of Russian-Jewish life in New York,” said Limmud FSU Co-Founder Sandy Cahn.
Below please find a photo from Limmud FSU New York. Photo credit: Courtesy of Limmud FSU.
Photo #1: (From left) Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., Limmud FSU Founder Chaim Chesler, and Limmud FSU Co-Founder Sandy Cahn at the opening of the Leonard Cohen exhibition at Limmud FSU New York.
Some 1,000 people are expected to gather the weekend of May 12 for Limmud FSU New York, the biggest event geared towards the Russian-speaking community in the area, which will include a ceremony opening an exhibition on Leonard Cohen’s life and Jewish roots.
Currently, there are an estimated 200,000 Russian Jews in the Tri-State area and 700,000 nationally. Limmud FSU New York will take place at the Hilton Westchester and will feature an array of world-class programs and speakers from around the world, including Israel’s minister of tourism, Yariv Levin. Also slated to attend is Representative Nita Lowey.
Limmud FSU New York is a dynamic and pluralistic Jewish festival of culture, creativity and learning featuring more than 80 inspiring speakers and 120 panels, workshops and discussions on subjects ranging from art, to Jewish culture and tradition, history, politics, academics, business and lifestyles.
Sponsored by the Koret Foundation and Blavatnik Family Foundation, Limmud FSU New York will explore a diverse array of topics including Israel in the era of Trump, Jewish views of astrology and superstition, raising children in a diverse world, demystifying Shabbat and religious Zionism. Top Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb will give a special performance during the tribute to Leonard Cohen.
Among the featured presenters will be acclaimed Russian animator Oleg Kuvaev; Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan; Stand-up comedians Dmitry Romanov and Igor Meerson; UJA-Federation of New York Director of Learning and Development and Jewish Parent Co-Founder Yelena Kutikova; American rabbi and bestselling author Joseph Telushkin; Muslim interfaith activist Nadiya Al-Noor; Founder and director of “Eralash” TV show Boris Grachevskii; Abby Stein, the first openly transgender woman raised in the Hasidic community; and many others.
“The New York Russian-speaking Jewish community is thriving and going from strength to strength and Limmud FSU New York has become an integral part of this exciting growth,” said Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler. “We look forward to an inspiring gathering that will contribute to the incredible vitality of Russian-Jewish life in New York,” said Limmud FSU co-founder Sandy Cahn.
Limmud FSU New York was made possible by the generous support of UJA- Jewish Federation of New York and the Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), and the help of local volunteers, including Ilya Bratman, Valerie Khmelnitsky and Roman Sidler.
“Limmud FSU New York grows by leaps and bounds each year. We are already sold out for the weekend and have a waiting list,” said Limmud FSU US Project Manager Noam Shumakh-Khaimov.
Despite high tensions between the United States and Russia, Moscow’s Jewish community will gather for the largest-ever festival for Russian-speaking Jews in the former Soviet Union. More than 2,500 will attend Limmud FSU’s 11th conference in Moscow, April 20-23.
Keynote speakers at the conference will include Russia’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar and Israel’s minister of justice, Ayelet Shaked. The event will include more than 250 workshops, roundtables and activities for children, and 12 lectures each hour on topics ranging from Jewish history, to politics, to cooking, and more.
“The expected record turnout is evidence that Jewish life is thriving in Russia,” said Limmud FSU Founder Chaim Chesler. “It warms my heart to see how proudly and openly Russian’s Jews celebrate their Jewish identities, which they have worked hard to define for themselves in the years in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union. Moscow’s Jewish community is here to stay.”
Other speakers and presenters at the conference will include Israeli Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren; former Israeli Ambassador to Russia Dorit Golender, who is vice president of Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG); American musician Joshua Nelson; film director Kirill Serebrennikov, who is artistic director of The Gogol center in Moscow; acclaimed Russian writer Eduard Uspensky; world-leading Kaballah teacher Eliyahu Yardeni, who heads the Moscow Kabbalah Center; Nazi hunter and historian Ephraim Zuroff; and Limmud FSU President Aaron Frenkel.
The conference will also celebrate the centennial of the Habima Theatre, Israel’s national theater and one of the first Hebrew-language theaters, which launched in Moscow in 1917. Attending to commemorate the 100th anniversary will be acclaimed Israeli actor Shmuel Atzmon-Wircer, Israeli theater and film composer Avi Benjamin, and Russian-Israeli Habima actress Evgenia Dodina.
This Limmud FSU Moscow is made possible by its team of local leaders and volunteers, including Limmud FSU Moscow Project Manager Anna Adamskaya, Mikhail Libkin, Alexandra Livergant, Alexander Piatigorskiy, and others.
The Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar told the Limmud FSU Moscow conference today that Russian President Vladimir Putin has done more for the Jewish community in Russia including fighting anti-Semitism than any other Russian leader.
Rabbi Lazar, addressing more than 2,000 Jews at the Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) “FSU Study” conference today, said: “Putin was the first president to publicly speak out against anti-Semitism and did the most for the Jews in Russia. There is no institutional anti-Semitism in Russia. The attitude toward the Jews in Russia is excellent.”
Referring to Putin, the rabbi compared him favorably with previous Russian leaders. “In contrast to Gorbachev and Yeltsin, who were not interested in hearing about the situation of the Jews in Russia, Putin was the first to say that anti-Semitism has no place in Russia. He was the first to speak publicly against anti-Semitism, and did the most for the Jews in Russia. This is not self-evident, nor is it obvious that there can be a conference in Russia today like the study of FSU with more than 2,000 Jews.”
Regarding recent anti-Semitic statements by Russian parliamentarians, Lazar said, “It's just a drop in the ocean. These statements are of course inappropriate, but they are not the end of the world either. Our goal is to have a finger on the pulse and raise the issues on the political level in order to protect the Jewish community. We must cooperate with the government as long as it protects us.”
On a more amusing note, Lazar referred to the Russian authorities’ policy of banning the popular Pokemon Go mobile phone game in religious institutions. “If anyone finds Pokemon in our synagogues, we will be glad.”
Lazar also warned that French Jews should leave that country if nationalist presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who is leading in current polls, should win the election. “The situation in Europe is very worrying. If Marine Le Pen is elected president of France, the Jews must leave,” he said.
He also voiced general concern about the rise of nationalism across Europe. “The situation there is very worrying. Not only because of immigrants, but also because the general population is heading toward radicalization. The best example of this is the rise of extreme-right parties.”
When asked about recent media reports linking President Donald Trump and Chabad, Lazar said: “I do not like that people are intentionally looking for ties between Trump and Chabad or between Trump and the Jews in general. The only thing I can say it, it’s excellent that Ivanka Trump is Jewish, and that Trump’s grandchildren are Jewish too, but I have nothing to add beyond that.”
Before the U.S. presidential election, Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner visited the grave of the late Lubavitch Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, in Queens, N.Y. The site is popular among Orthodox Jews seeking a blessing and inspiration.
Lazar also defended Putin for his role in supporting Syrian President Bashir Assad. “It is not certain that there are better options for Syria than Assad. The Arab spring did not produce positive results. It seems that the Arab countries are not yet ready to accept the rule of democracy.”
Attached please find photos of Rabbi Lazar at the Limmud FSU conference in Moscow. Photo Credit: Limmud FSU.
A century after the U.K. declared its support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Israel, the current Lord Balfour expressed pride in his great-grandfather’s “humanitarian act,” as Jewish leaders from around the world and some 700 Russian-speaking Jews from 18 European countries gathered in Windsor this weekend for the first-ever Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) Europe regional conference in the U.K.
The Limmud FSU Europe conference featured a special centennial celebration of the Balfour Declaration. The declaration, dated Nov. 2, 1917, was sent from U.K. Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, and expressed the U.K.’s support for the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Israel.
Reacting to the celebration, Arthur Balfour’s great-grandson, Lord Roderick Balfour, who had never before made a public statement about the declaration, said in a letter: “My family is very proud of the importance to Jewish people everywhere of this initiative by the British government of the day. The relevance to you all here today is that the imperative for it stemmed from the appalling Russian pogroms at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Thus, and this is what we are most proud of, the declaration was first and foremost a humanitarian act trying to repatriate a talented but much-persecuted people to the land of the original Judaic roots.”
Speaking at the conference about a report issued last week by the London-based Community Security Trust (CST) that anti-Semitic hate crimes are at an all-time high in the U.K., American historian Deborah Lipstadt said: “Holocaust denial is one manifestation of anti-Semitism. There are hardcore Holocaust deniers – who are easy to fight, using facts – and then there is soft-core Holocaust denial. Take, for example, the recent White House statement that failed to recognize Jewish victims of the Holocaust. These sorts of attempts to be ‘inclusive,’ as Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks put it, take the Jewish identity away from the Holocaust. This is a form of Holocaust denial.”
“The CST report is particularly disturbing because there was no single trigger event – such as Israel’s 2014 operation in Gaza – this past year,” said Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. “This increase in anti-Semitic incidents is a result of the populism surrounding Brexit – in the same way that Donald Trump’s election exposed deep-seated anti-Semitic and other hateful sentiments in America.”
Limmud FSU Europe marked the first time in its decade-long history that Limmud FSU was not geared toward Russian-speaking Jews of a specific city or country. More than 250,000 Russian-speaking Jews currently reside in Europe, making it one of the world’s largest Russian-speaking Jewish communities.
The U.K. conference featured more than 100 lectures, workshops, presentations and discussions by leading figures including British members of Parliament; Israeli members of Knesset; former Ambassador of Israel to the U.N. Ron Prosor; Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar; Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein; Genesis Philanthropy Group President and CEO Ilia Salita; American businessman and philanthropist Matthew Bronfman, who is chairman of Limmud FSU’s international steering committee; and Limmud FSU President Aaron Frenkel.
“This unprecedented continental gathering brought together major Jewish leaders and the Russian-speaking Jewish communities of Europe to celebrate the Balfour Declaration, which paved the way for the formation of the modern State of Israel,” said Limmud FSU Founder Chaim Chesler and Co-Founder Sandy Cahn. “Our first extra-territorial Limmud FSU was also our first nomadic conference, convening Russian-speaking Jews from across Europe in the continent’s informal capital.”
Limmud FSU Europe was held in partnership with the Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), a private foundation with the mission of developing and enhancing a sense of Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews around the world. For more information about GPG, please visit: www.gpg.org.
One hundred years after the U.K. declared its support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people, Jewish leaders from across the world and more than 650 Russian-speaking Jews from more than 20 European countries will gather in Windsor for the first-ever Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) Europe regional conference in the U.K., Feb. 3-5.
Limmud FSU Europe is the first extra-territorial Limmud and this U.K. conference will feature more than 100 lectures, workshops, presentations and discussions by leading figures including British members of Parliament; Israeli members of Knesset; Ambassador of Israel to the U.K. Mark Regev; former Ambassador of Israel to the U.N. Ron Prosor; American historian Deborah Lipstadt, best known for her book “Denying the Holocaust”; Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar; World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder; Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein; Genesis Philanthropy Group President and CEO Ilia Salita; American businessman and philanthropist Matthew Bronfman, who is chairman of Limmud FSU’s international steering committee; Limmud FSU President Aaron Frenkel; Ukraine-born American businessman, investor and philanthropist Len Blavatnik; Russian actor and playwright Veniamin Smekhov; French artist and co-founder of the Soviet Pop (Sots) Art movement Erik Bulatov; Russian TV presenter and journalist, Vladimir Pozner; Grigory Tshatrishvili, the French writer who uses the famous pseudonym Boris Akunin; and others.
The Balfour Declaration, dated Nov. 2, 1917, was sent from U.K. Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, and expressed the support for the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Israel. The text was incorporated into the Sevres peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire and the Mandate for Palestine.
The Limmud FSU Europe conference will include a centennial celebration of the declaration.
“This unprecedented continental gathering will bring together major Jewish leaders and the Russian-speaking Jewish communities of Europe celebrate the Balfour Declaration, which paved the way for the formation of the modern State of Israel,” said Limmud FSU Founder Chaim Chesler and Co-Founder Sandy Cahn. “Our first extra-territorial Limmud FSU will also be our first nomadic conference, convening Russian-speaking Jews from across the Europe in the continent’s informal capital.”
This continental gathering marks the first time in its decade-long history that Limmud FSU is not geared toward Russian-speaking Jews of a specific city or country. More than 250,000 Russian-speaking Jews currently reside in Europe, making it one of the world’s largest Russian-speaking Jewish communities.
Limmud FSU Europe is being held in partnership with the Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), a private foundation with the mission of developing and enhancing a sense of Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews around the world. For more information about GPG, please visit: www.gpg.org.
The conference is possible thanks to Limmud FSU Europe Chairman Semyon Dovzhik, and Limmud FSU Europe project manager Tatiana Pashaeva. Limmud FSU Europe volunteer teams consists of 30 U.K.-based members and 20 “ambassadors” in European countries including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, and others.
“Limmud FSU Europe is a unique platform, uniting Russian-speaking Jews from different communities and backgrounds,” said Dovzhik. “Russian-European Jews see Limmud FSU as an outstanding opportunity to reconnect with their Jewish roots and preserve their cultural heritage. This is why the idea of Limmud speaks to people who previously declined any involvement with Jewish communities. Despite the current political climate in Europe, Limmud FSU continues to bring people together.”