More than 800 Russian-speaking Israelis Celebrated at Limmud FSU Kinneret

More than 800 Russian-speaking Israelis between 20 and 40 years old, many with their children, gathered Dec. 11-13 for Limmud FSU’s Festival of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) at Kibbutz Ginosar. The event was held in collaboration with the Jordan Valley Regional Council, and with the support of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the Israeli Ministry of Absorption, the Jewish National Fund, and others.

Limmud FSU’s Festival of the Sea of Galilee, which included many first-time participants, celebrated the Zionist poet Rachel Bluwstein, known as Rachel the Poetess (Rachel HaMeshosheret in Hebrew). Rachel was born in Saratov, Russia, then lived and worked in the Galilee. She is considered the founding mother of modern Hebrew poetry by women. At the opening event on Dec. 11, an original musical based on Rachel’s songs and produced by the Acting School “Beit Zvi” premiered, while musician and singer Marina Maximilian closed the event with a gala concert.

Limmud FSU Kinneret featured a wide range of leading figures from Israel and beyond, including acclaimed author Amos Oz; Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein; Founder of Limmud FSU Chaim Chesler; Vice President of the Immigration and Absorption of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews Eli Cohen; MK Elazar Stern; food writer Gil Hovav; linguist Avshalom Kor; Rabbi Menachem Hacohen; military historian and philosopher Uri Millstein; political strategist Yoram Dori; and author and historian Muki Tzur. Others dignitaries included Chairman of the International Steering Committee of Limmud FSU Matthew Bronfman; and Chairman of the Jordan Valley Regional Council Yossi Vardi.

Among the event’s highlights was a revealing and intimate video conversation with Oz, interviewed by four Israeli journalists from the Russian-, Hebrew- and English-language press, following a showing of a Limmud FSU documentary shot just a few weeks ago, which traced the footsteps of Fania Oz-Salzberger, Oz’s daughter, to the family home in Rovno, Ukraine.

Many of the first-timers went to great lengths to attend the event, including Yana Slinko, originally from Tambov, in the Volga (who only learned she was Jewish at age 16) and Rami Koptman, from Lviv, Ukraine. The young couple, who are counselors in the MASA program, journeyed from Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat, many hours away, to attend.

Rami accompanied Yana “to do her a favor, but with very low expectations,” he said. However, “I was really surprised by the very interesting lectures and the quality of the participants.”

Tanya Krugliak, a tour guide from Kiryat Ata, originally from Moscow and in Israel since 2001, had attended the last year’s Limmud in Jerusalem and was so impressed that this time she brought along three first-timers: her husband, Zvi, her 11-year-old daughter Shani, and her 79-year-old mother, Eliza – reflecting the cross-generational appeal of the event.

Lev Kegeles, 27, worked for The Jewish Agency as a youth counselor at summer camps in Moscow before coming to Israel just a few months ago. A psychology graduate, he is now reinventing himself as a master woodcarver and attended Limmud to demonstrate his skills to a Russian-speaking audience, since he does not yet speak Hebrew.

Photo by Andrey Deveykin
Photo by Andrey Deveykin

The three-day volunteer-run festival was the sixth Limmud FSU in Israel (previous events in Israel took place in Ashkelon, Beersheva, Jerusalem and Upper Nazareth). Limmud FSU Kinneret included more than 120 workshops, tours, exhibitions, cultural events and lectures on art, literature, Zionism, Jewish history, and a wide range of activities for adults and children – all of whom have an Israeli and Jewish background. The Festival of the Galilee featured a special program for families with children showcasing the many sides of Israel.

Video above from The Gala of the Limmud FSU program; performed by the Bait-Tzvi Art School.