By Sarah Bendetsky
Over 400 participants attended the inaugural Limmud FSU events for Russian-speaking Jews in Sydney and Melbourne, run in partnership with the Zionist Federation of Australia.
The opening gala event in Sydney was attended by 150 participants with another 250 arriving for a two-day festival of Jewish learning, dubbed “Kultura,” in the Lorne Mantra Resort, on the Great Ocean Road, near Melbourne. Bringing together Russian-speaking Jews from the length and breadth of Australia, the festival celebrated Jewish identity, history and culture, in an inclusive, pluralistic and egalitarian celebration of contemporary Jewish life.
“Limmud FSU was established as part of the global Limmud initiative, founded in the UK 35 years ago, and known for its stimulating festivals of Jewish learning and cultural exchange across the world,” said Chaim Chesler, Founder of Limmud FSU. “Limmud FSU was founded to bring the British model to young Jewish Russian speakers wherever they may live. We empower young adults to connect with their communities and to feel inspired by their identity through our volunteer-driven conferences in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. We’ve held events in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Israel, USA and Canada – and now, it’s the turn of Australia!”
The audience enjoyed meeting 45 Australian and international presenters, including Gil Hovav, a well-known Israeli chef and great-grandson of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, reviver of Hebrew as a modern spoken language, the jazz virtuoso, Leon Ptashka, leading rabbis, scientists, academicians, journalists, artists and political figures.
Member of the Victorian Parliament, David Southwick opened the Melbourne festival by saying, “We are extremely proud of the very first Limmud FSU festival to take place in Australia, which will enrich the Jewish community of Victoria and will strengthen the ties between the Australian Jewish community and Israel.”
Speaking to those assembled, Roman Polonsky, Director of the Russian-Speaking Jewry Unit of the Jewish Agency said, “The engagement of the 30,000 Russian-speaking Jews in Australia is our top priority. And that is why we appointed a full-time representative in Australia, who has been working with this community for the last three years.”
A special event at the Limmud FSU festival was an exhibit of paintings by the distinguished Israeli artist, Yosl Bergner, “A Land for the Jews.” An exciting programme for the younger Limmudniks, concerts, recitals and delicious kosher meals rounded off a memorable experience for participants of all ages.
“Going to Limmud FSU was the best decision I made this year,” said participant Jemima Meltser. “It was great to spend time with so many like-minded people, meet new friends, learn about Judaism and celebrate being Jewish. Now all I want to know is when the next Limmud festival will be held!”
“The Zionist Federation of Australia is excited to be in partnership with Limmud FSU in this exceptional event,” said Danny Lamm, President of the ZFA. “We believe that it is essential to engage the Russian-speaking members of the Australian Jewish community members in the life of the broader Jewish community, just as the arrival of over one million Russian speakers to Israel has proved to be a vital element in the building of the State and its future.”
Ron Weiser, President of the Zionist Federation of New South Wales said, “We were delighted to host the initial opening function of Limmud FSU in Sydney and to see some 150 Russian speaking Jews come together to share in enjoying Russian style culture and entertainment followed by a traditional Shabbat dinner. To see such an amalgam of ages – young and not so young – attracted to this landmark event with the generous sponsorship of the Harry Triguboff Institute, made all of the lead up and planning worthwhile.Following the success of Limmud FSU in Australia this year, we are now looking forward to hosting the next Limmud FSU festival in Sydney a year from now.”
For more information on Limmud FSU, please visit www.limmudfsu.org