Limmud FSU representatives meeting with the local leadership in Brest, January 2013.

Limmud FSU will hold its first-ever event in Vitebsk, Belarus, during late May 2013. 450 participants are expected for a multi-day program that will be built around the theme Limmud-ART. Vitebsk is known as the birthplace of Marc Chagall.

Chaim Chesler, Limmud FSU’s founder, told eJP, “Belarus is a new and exciting project for Limmud FSU and we’re so proud to launch another, our 8th Limmud FSU project worldwide.”

The Vitebsk program will be preceded by a Limmud FSU sponsored ceremony in Vishnevo, the birthplace of Israel President Peres, that will include the dedication of a museum in Peres’s honor showcasing personal items from the Peres collection. The Vishnevo event is being planned in conjunction with the Tel Aviv based Peres Center.

The following week an additional event will take place in Bresk marking the 100th birthday of the late Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin in his birthplace – Brest. The event will be attended by members of the Begin family, Israeli Government representatives including the Israeli Ambassador in Belarus, local authorities, Limmud FSU Belarus participants and leaders of the local Jewish Community.

Event details were discussed this week during a meeting attended by Chesler; Herzl Makov, chairman of the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem (amongst other Limmud FSU representatives); and Konstantin Sumar, the governor of Bresk Province.

There has been a Jewish community in Bresk since the early 14th century. Among other prominent Jewish personages originating from Bresk are Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1964 to 1972, the Soloveitchik rabbinical dynasty and its famous Brisker Yeshiva, and the family of former Israeli Prime-Minister Ariel Sharon (Scheinermann). Sharon’s grandmother was a midwife at Begin’s birth. The Jewish population, which accounted for over half of the city, was decimated in 1942 by the Nazis when the nearly 30,000 inhabitants of the Bresk Ghetto were murdered. Today, the newly-restored Jewish population of Belarus numbers about 20,000 souls out of 10.5 million.

Launched in the U.K. thirty plus years ago, Limmud events have now been held in over 60 communities in 26 countries.