By Larisa Popovskaya
This year’s Limmud FSU in Moscow gathered together a record 1,400 people, making it the biggest Jewish event of the year. This Limmud was different in several ways. First, there was a new project manager Tatiana Pashaeva, second, for the first time in Moscow Limmud history, people had to live in two hotels, because space in our loved Kliazma resort had run out. And thirdly, the program was a blast!
Limmud started on Thursday in the evening with some participants coming in the afternoon, but mostly in the evening and the next day before Shabbat. The team of volunteers welcomed Limmud`s participants around the clock. Two pillars of Limmud FSU, the founder, Chaim Chesler, and Roman Kogan, Limmud FSU’s Executive Director, were happy to see the well-knit volunteer team in action.
Natalia Dobzhanskaya, a volunteer from Israel, is an experienced Limmudnik, but had come to Moscow for the first time. “I came because I had heard about its scope, high level and the many interesting presenters. Limmud Moscow is the largest scale Limmud conference I’ve ever attended.”
The Limmud bags were yellow this year and the Limmud program was different. The range of sessions had to be printed on a huge separate peace of paper, because the number of sessions didn’t fit into the regular book!
Among the Limmud participants were more than 150 kids of all ages, and, of course, their parents, who had the opportunity to send their child off to a special program and thus fully enjoy Limmud for themselves. This year Limmud welcomed participants from Russia, Belarus, the UK, Israel and the USA. Polina Berlin came from Los-Angeles, to gain experience to help plan for the first Russian-speaking Limmud planned for early 2016 on the US West Coast. She had attended Limmud FSU in New Jersey just three weeks before Moscow. “I am a member of the organizing committee for Limmud West Coast. I looked up the program of the Limmud Moscow and I liked it. It had strong content, is well-organized, the presenters are great and we are. looking for presenters for our Limmud.” Polina’s response to my question “What is Limmud for you?” was: “Limmud is my Judaism and my affiliation to Jewry.”
And Limmud Moscow is a great place to study how a Limmud should be created. Limmud FSU Volga and the Urals will be the next Russian Limmud, and will take place in Kazan in Autumn 2015. Members of the Limmud Volga organizing committee were present here with the same aim as Polina – to check out the details of how Limmud works.
Limmud’s Russian presenters this year were more than awesome. Among them were the famous writer and caricaturist Andrey Bilzho, animation director and screenwriter Garri Bardin, poet and critic Lev Rubinshtein, poet Igor Irtenyev, writer Liudmila Ulitskaya, singer Andrey Makarevich, animator Yuriy Norshteyn and many others. There were many fascinating sessions on poetry, science, literature, journalism, economy, Jewish history and traditions, Shabbat and Havdala, music, cinema, theater, children, dance, Russia and Israel, LGBT and sex. The latter topic drew criticism and hot dispute on Facebook.
Limmud participant Dvora Gabriel, who lives in Moscow and Jerusalem, had come to Limmud Moscow for the fifth time. This year, she came with her husband and her son was a volunteer. “I meet many people, listen to sessions given by my friends and sometimes I have managed to bring presenters to Limmud. I love the people who create Limmud and I can appreciate how much energy is invested in its organization.”
With some nine parallel sessions, it was very hard to decide where to go. Especially in the evening. Especially at night. Especially when you want to have fun. The choice at night was wide: those, who were ready for even more lectures had the opportunity; others who preferred to play intellectual games were welcome to do so, and others listened to a concert. Here too there were choices: klezmer and wartime music, contemporary music and spontaneous groups of guitarists all around the hotel lobbies. It is already a Limmud tradition to join a sing-song in the lobby which ended up at six on Sunday morning.
Dmitriy Perman from Moscow, came to Limmud for only Saturday and for the last unforgettable night in the lobby. He has several reasons for coming to Limmud even if only for one day. “To see people I love, to attend a few new sessions because Limmud has a great concentration of interesting people. Also Limmud for me is the transition from winter to spring.”
The three days of Limmud flew by and I opened my eyes at nine on Sunday morning in Kliazma after just four hours of sleep with this terrible feeling of returning to my routine and boring (compared to Limmud) life. I go down for the last breakfast and bump into project manager Tatiana Pashaeva. She looks tired but happy. I ask her: “So how was it?” She says: “It was an enormous responsibility for me to inherit organization of the eight year-old Limmud. But I am happy that we succeeded in gathering such a great team this year and I hope that we’ll multiply it again next time.”
An hour later a goodbye kiss to Chaim Chesler, farewells to all my friends and a departure from the wonderful island of Limmud.
Photos courtesy Limmud FSU Moscow