The most recent Limmud FSU Festival for young Russian-speaking Jews took place in Odessa, Ukraine, last week. More than 600 young adults from 14 countries, including Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, USA and Israel, participated. Additionally, Limmud FSU successfully collaborated with the European Jewish Union bringing young adults from Germany, France, Belgium, Britain and even Gibraltar, to Odessa.
Several well-known lecturers, journalists, actors, musicians and political figures came to Odessa specially to participate in this festival. One highlight was the attendance of Andrei Makarevich, a famous Russian rock-musician, who at the Gala Opening, sang a number of his songs translated into Hebrew. Other prominent speakers included Michael Goldovsky, Head of the Jewish Agency Office in Odessa; Immanuil Vitorgan, a “People’s Artist of Russia;” Greg Schneider, Executive Vice-President of the Conference for Jewish Material Claims against Germany; Yoram Dori, a senior advisor to Shimon Peres; Lev Novozhenov, a famed Russian television presenter from Moscow; Reuven Din-El, the Israeli ambassador in Ukraine; Igor Geller, a noted psychologist; and Iryna Rosenfeld, a popular singer from Kiev.
In Limmud FSU style, more than a 150 lectures, master-classes, presentations, round-table discussions, concerts and excursions were held. As is Limmud tradition around the world, all planning and organization was in the hands of an army of local volunteers.
Chaim Chesler, the founder and chair of the Executive Committee of Limmud FSU said: “We are very proud of our local team who did such a brilliant job in preparing the conference. This second Limmud in Odessa was even more interesting and rich than last year’s.”
A memorial ceremony commemorating the beginning of the Second World War on Soviet soil was held at the Holocaust Memorial in Odessa’s Prokhorovsky Park. Several hundred people took part, among them, Rabbi Menachem HaCohen, Vice-Chair of the Claims Conference, Baruch Shub, Chairman of the Israel Organization of Partisans, underground and ghetto fighters, along with key Limmud FSU activists and organizers.
Schneider noted that the Claims Conference has supported Limmud FSU and its events from the beginning. He said that,” thanks to its unique educational approach, Limmud has managed to present the difficult topic of Holocaust in a way that has made it into one of the most widely discussed themes at the conferences. In so doing, Limmud has passed on an important and vital awareness of the Holocaust to a new generation.”
Rabbi Menachem HaCohen, past Chief Rabbi of Romania and previously a member of the Knesset, said: “I have participated in several Limmud events in the past, but this is my first experience of it in Ukraine. Limmud is a project which covers a wide spectrum of topics in a unique and special educational format. It is an essential component in the process of revival of Jewish life in the countries of the Former Soviet Union.”
Limmud FSU for Russian-speaking Jews was established some six years ago and tens of thousands of young people have participated. This was the second Limmud FSU conference to take place in Odessa, a major center of pre-war Jewish culture, and the fifth in Ukraine. eJP will be following up with more on the festival, Jewish life in Ukraine and the vibrancy of this country’s young adult community.