They came from Brooklyn and Philadelphia; Jerusalem and Kiev – gathering yesterday morning at the Hampton Synagogue in WestHampton, New York, for Limmud FSU’s second event in the U.S. The synagogue campus was over-run as 800 strong, up from last year’s 500, participated in more than 60 sessions facilitated by over 100 panelists, experiencing what co-chair Yigal Kotler termed “real Jewish Peoplehood”.

It was a mix of cultures – American-Jewish, Israeli and Russian-Jewish – as was evidenced by the choice of program, and the constant back and forth between Russian and English in many sessions.

Bel Kaufman, Shalom Aleichem’s 99 year old grand-daughter and the hit speaker of last year’s Taste of Limmud, participated through video declaring “my soul is Russian” as she reminisced about her upbringing and about how “great it was to be with you last year”.

The days’ program was filled with politicians, academics and celebrities, but clearly the hit of the morning was American astronaut Garrett Reisman – who “wowed” the participants by delivering remarks in Russian before presenting a film of his experiences on a just completed Atlantis mission to the International Space Station.

At its heart, yesterday’s Limmud FSU program was about a continued re-connection and re-engagement with New York’s Russian-Jewish community; a time for young Russian Jews to absorb their heritage and a time for New York’s Jewish communal professionals to experience first-hand the vibrancy of this community.

image: International Space Station, courtesy

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