Limmud with a Strong Moscow Accent
“Limmud Moscow is the educational flagship of the FSU; it is a bright and glowing event for Moscow Jewry with its special local atmosphere and its enormous number of presenters and participants and its varied content.”
Rabbi Boruch Gorin
by Larisa Popovskaya
Education, volunteering and fun … that in a nutshell sums up Limmud FSU Moscow, 2014, a festival of great lectures and amazing people especially for Russian speakers.
Limmud FSU is a part of the global Limmud which started in the United Kingdom 35 years ago. Limmud FSU has been roaming the globe already for the past eight years. Limmud FSU Moscow is the largest of these and it sets the tone for the other conferences, wherever they take place – in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, the United States and Israel of course, with more to come (Canada later this year and Australia next for example.)
This year Limmud FSU in Moscow brought together more than 1,150 Russian-speaking Jews, after the Passover festival on April 24-27. The founder of Limmud FSU, Chaim Chesler, was there as usual, energizing everybody and everything. The local organizers Yevgenia Nemirovskaya and Mikhail Libkin with a group of highly experienced volunteers and CEO Roman Kogan, did an exceptional job in creating a pulsating atmosphere of edutainment and study.
For the first time, Limmud FSU Moscow provided kosher food for all the participants, which this time included Rabbi Boruch Gorin of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia who attended Limmud as a presenter with all his family. He said, “Limmud Moscow is the educational flagship of the FSU; it is a bright and glowing event for Moscow Jewry with its special local atmosphere and its enormous number of presenters and participants and its varied content. Limmud Moscow is young and its atmosphere is also young.” He would like to see it meeting more often than once a year, “so as to retain the wonderful atmosphere of volunteering, education and family.”
The organizers of Limmud FSU 2014 managed to cram 180 lectures and presentations in the three days, covering a wide variety of topics, from history, art, refuseniks, righteous gentiles, the Jewish festivals, eco-volunteering, Israeli politics, to Wikipedia. Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews was attending Limmud FSU Moscow for the first time. He has been working with Russian-speaking Jewry for 15 years, helping t Jews to immigrate to Israel and fundraising for local Jewish organizations. Rabbi Eckstein sees the aim of Limmud FSU as building a new generation of Jews who will be proud of their Jewish identity and traditions. “Religion is a fundamental part of Jewish identity. I want to promote the feeling of Jewish tradition and continuity in Limmud. Moreover, I see a need for interchange between Limmud and Chabad, Limmud and Birthright, Limmud and other Jewish movements.”
Many different types of people came to Limmud Moscow this year, including young couples with children and even toddlers. The children’s program was on a very high level and parents could easily visit lectures and workshops while their children were under the supervision of experienced counselors. There were many Russian-speakers from other cities of Russia as well as from Germany, the USA and even Australia. We spoke to Avital Chizhik, a young Russian-speaking journalist from New York. She is an Orthodox woman, who was born in the US in a family of immigrants from Kiev, Ukraine, and is now a columnist for Haaretz daily newspaper. This was her fourth Limmud: the first two were in New Jersey and the third in Vitebsk, Belarus: “I can see a difference between Limmud FSU in New Jersey and in Moscow – in the US the focus is on getting together socially and here it is more academic and I love it.”
People from many different backgrounds and professions attend Limmud. Lev Sandyuk a member of the Klezmeisters, a klezmer band in Moscow, came as a presenter. “It is a great tradition to gather together in April in this wonderful Jewish setting. Limmud FSU is a democratic and interesting event, where there may be four or five lectures that you would like to hear, taking place at the same time. The only thing I would wish for is more time and space for musicians.”
Together with Limmud old-timers there were newcomers and people who are not actively involved in Moscow Jewish life. Elena Andreeva found out about Limmud FSU from her friend who went on the Birthright program. “It is my second Limmud. I have many friends here and we arranged to come here in advance, I even asked my husband for a three-day leave,” she smiles. “What I like at Limmud is meeting new people of different ages and being able to share a table at meals with lecturers.”
Limmud FSU Moscow 2014 was a brilliant conference of learning, volunteering, pluralism and entertainment, all with a strong Russian accent.
Photos courtesy Limmud FSU, Nathan Roi and Olga Lavie