The learning adventure continues – Limmud FSU first timers have found their rhythm, made new friends, begun to express themselves with more confidence, and reflect inward, too. “One of the most wonderful byproducts of the Limmud experience is that everyone finds their own place in their own particular Jewish journey,” said Sandra Cahn, Limmud FSU’s co-founder. “There’s a comfort level where no matter how much Jewish background you’ve had, you feel you belong, no one is judging you and by the end of the process you feel part of a collective Jewish community and proud about being Jewish.”
On tap today were sessions with hands-on activities such as making Shabbat candles and traditional beading, serious topics including an exploration of Jewish genealogy in the post-Soviet era, and a personal retrospective of the “singing” Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who changed the face of Chassidic music, by his daughter, Neshama.
Her father’s daughter in every sense, Neshama Carlebach shared his journey through life with touching narrative and song. In a lilting soft voice, Neshama infused the hall with the majesty, warmth, and spirit of her father, and performed traditional Chassidic songs with unusual grace and depth. She explained, “to give real honor to my father’s name, you have to become who you are and always know that G-d is with you. I’m able to give to the people he loved through my own song.” Issuing a challenge to her listeners, Neshama said, “next time you’re in a synagogue and you hear one of my father’s songs, I pray that you’ll find more, that you’ll find beauty and help one another.”
A few personal Limmud FSU reflections – traveling 30-hours by train to Yalta from Vitebsk, Belarus, two women, Marina Sheinkina and Olga Isser, wanted to understand Jewish tradition beyond the Judaic icons expressed in Marc Chagall’s painting. “It’s time to involve more Vitebsk Jews of different ages and backgrounds in Jewish activities in our town. We need everybody to be connected and to help one another,” explained Olga.
From Kharkov, Dima Pahkov, a 20-year-old Hillel student, who didn’t grow up in a Jewish home: “Hillel has become my second family. They embraced me,” he said. “What I like about being here at Limmud are the presentations about Jewish history and getting a better understanding of who I am as a Jew.” And, Laura Popovskaya, a second-year Limmud volunteer from Kiev, also 20, found the lectures and conversations about the status of Jews around the world, the political problems facing the Jewish people, and new ways of thinking about herself as a Jew, were most interesting. “Now, I know more about me!” she announced proudly.
Another conversation with a different view – Eliezer Shargorodsky, a 30-something Israeli presenter, who was born in Russia, raised in Switzerland, and made aliyah at age 21. Eliezer focused his lecture to participants on building Jewish awareness and meaning. He described his personal feelings, “growing up, I felt my Jewish identity through Israel and what it means to the Jewish people, not through religion.” Today, he said, “the meaning of Israel has been lost in its efforts to develop a viable economy. Here at Limmud, I’m impressed with the spirit of volunteerism and the search for Jewish meaning. It’s great.” He continued, “we need to remember that these young people come from a place were nothing was ever done without monetary exchange. To volunteer is to be Jewish. Limmud FSU is a great achievement because it’s teaching this to so many young people very quickly.”
Accolades showcase Limmud FSU as a successful experience, a resource for personal growth, and a place to strengthen collective Jewish identity for the participants and presenters, too. Beyond this conference, the vision of Limmud FSU’s founder, Chaim Chesler, is that these re-energized young people will return to their communities, get involved, and live more fruitful Jewish lives. Chaim exclaimed,
“These are our future Jewish leaders.”
In case you missed them, you can read Marcia’s posts on the first two days of Limmud in Yalta here.