This past weekend (October 31 – November 3), more than 600 members of the Jewish community of Ukraine gathered for the 13th annual volunteer-driven festival of Jewish learning organized by Limmud FSU. The event took place in Odessa, one of the most important cities of Jewish and Zionist movement’s history. There are about 400,000 Jews in Ukraine today, with more than 45,000 in Odessa.
This year marks 100 years since the departure of the “Ruslan” ship from Odessa, on board of which there were dozens of Jewish cultural figures of that time – those who were destined to determine the intellectual life of Israel. A special exhibition on the event was presented at the conference, as well as some lectures on the topic.
Among the Festival’s keynote speakers were Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, former Deputy President of the Supreme Court of Israel and Dorit Golender, Vice-President for External Relations at Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG) and former Israeli Ambassador to Russia.
Addressing the participants during the opening event, Pavel Vugelman, Deputy Mayor of Odessa, said: “To host Limmud FSU is a great honor for us. The best people of the world come to Odessa, share their experiences, educate our youth and pass on the centuries-old wisdom of the Jewish people. We are pleased that such distinguished guests visit us, thereby glorifying our long Jewish history, strengthening our ties with the state of Israel and with “Nativ,” the Israeli cultural center, which is one of the landmark projects in the city.”
Mila Gold (20), a participant from Dnepr said: “It’s my first time at Limmud FSU, and I’m simply amazed by the energy, the quality of the program and the atmosphere. It really makes you proud of your Jewishness.” And Dorit Golender added: “It is highly symbolic and appropriate that Limmud FSU comes to Odessa – the historical center of Jewish national and intellectual revival, the city from which the pioneering spirit of Russian Jewry came all the way to the Land of Israel. Genesis Philanthropy Group, whose main mission is to develop and enhance the Jewish identity of Russian-speaking Jews, is happy to support Limmud FSU – one of the leading initiatives of Russian-speaking Jews worldwide.”
Speaking about the Festival, Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU, said: “It is a great honor for us to be here again, in the historical city of Odessa, and to celebrate this Limmud FSU festival with a wonderful, prosperous local Jewish community.”
Osik Akselrud, Limmud FSU Ukraine Chair and Director of Hillel in Ukraine added: “Limmud FSU is all about the people, knowledge, communication and a vivid example of community life. In Odessa, more than 600 people from 14 countries of the world took part in our annual event, including many of young adults, which is extremely important to Hillel, and our whole community as well.”
Limmud FSU Ukraine was made possible thanks to the team of local leaders and volunteers, led by Project Manager Galina Rybnikova and Limmud FSU executive director Roman Kogan.
The festival enjoyed the generous support of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), All-Ukrainian Jewish congress headed by Vadim Rabinovich, the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund, JDC, Nativ – Israel Prime Minister’s office, the Claims Conference, Joel Passick, and other Limmud FSU International funders.
Photo credit (all): Master Photographer, Maestro Boris Bukhman