Pasadena is Alive with the Sounds of … Russian!?!

Limmiud HollywoodSome 700 Russian-speaking Jews have gathered for the first-ever Limmud FSU West Coast conference, which opened Friday in Pasadena. A dynamic and pluralistic Jewish festival of learning, culture and creativity, Limmud FSU West Coast features an array of prominent speakers, including Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

LImmud Hollywood candle lightingSimmons will speak about the Jewish response to Islamophobia, along with Jerusalem Post Editor Steve Linde and Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding a N.Y.-based nonprofit that focuses on improving Muslim-Jewish and black-Jewish relations. Simmons is chairman of the organization.

Hampton Synagogue (NY) singers led a moving Kabbalat Shabbat program.
Hampton Synagogue (NY) singers led a festive Kabbalat Shabbat program.

Other major participants will include Israeli film star Tamara Klingon; Limmud FSU Chair Matthew Bronfman; Russian rock star Andrey Makarevich; Russian satirist and author Victor Shenderovich; Russian-Israeli singer Irene Talia Rosenfeld; jazz musician Leonid Ptashka; Jewish Women’s Renaissance Founder Lori Palatnik; former Israel Defense Forces Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan; Reut Institute President Gidi Grinstein; Rabbi David Wolpe; and Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut.

LImmud Hollywood participantsLimmud FSU West Coast will feature an eclectic lineup, from a concert by Makarevich to spiritually stirring Shabbat and Havdalah ceremonies, to interactive improv, and film screenings. The conference will also offer over 60 fascinating sessions on such issues as Russian-Jewish identity, the Russian-Jewish community in LA and Jewish perspectives on relationships.

There are an estimated 80,000 Russian-speaking Jews in the greater LA area, with other large Russian-speaking Jewish communities in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere in California. There are some 700,000 Russian-speaking Jews in the U.S. altogether.