By Larisa Popovskaya
Last weekend over 700 Russian-speaking Jews from all over Belarus gathered in the country’s capital for a three-day festival of Jewish learning and culture. The two previous conferences had been held in Vitebsk. Much of this year`s Limmud was dedicated to two prominent pioneers of the Zionist movement: Abba Ahimeir and Berl Katznelson, both of whom had been brought up in the Belarusian town of Bobruysk.
The founder of Limmud FSU Chaim Chesler together with members of the Katznelson and Ahimeir families opened a special exhibition on the history of the two personalities which was shown in Minsk and later in Bobruysk.
The Jews of Belarus had been anxiously awaiting the 2016 event. Evelina Golman, a participant from Moscow, came to Limmud Minsk with many members of her family: “I really enjoyed it, especially for the quality of its presentations. Moreover, I caught up with people whom I had not seen for more than ten years.”
As usual the range of topics at Limmud sessions was very varied: photography, Jewish dance, culture and traditions, tourism, Jewish history, fashion, leadership, music, cuisine, humor, Israeli politics, literature, entrepreneurship, sex, education and much more. Among popular presenters were stand-up comedians Ilya Akselrod and Klara Novikova, a young Belarusian designer Leon Gofman, the Klezmer band “Klezmasters,” the Yiddish singer Marina Yakubovich, Russian poet and singer Veronika Dolina, Ukrainian comedians Valeriy Khait and Aleksander Volodarskiy and several speakers from Israel, including Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, former deputy Chief of Staff of the IDF, MK Hilik Bar and Minister of social equality Gila Gamliel.
Volunteer Viktoria Tkachuk from Minsk described the atmosphere at Limmud: “Limmud in Belarus is young and still has space to grow. I was glad that it was in Minsk, but I really want to see more young people coming. That`s why we need to develop and use all the facilities that Minsk has to offer.”
The traditional opening and closing ceremonies were marked by rousing musical performances. The jazz virtuoso Leonid Ptashka wowed the audience together with a young and talented local singer, Anna Shaliutina. Popular Israeli singer Dorit Reuveni won over the audience with her rendition of some well-known Israeli songs.
On Sunday morning with still a few lectures to go, we manage to catch up with a member of the organizing committee, Reform Rabbi Irina Abramovich: “The success of this Limmud lies in the large number of participants and the special programs for children. I really enjoyed the fact that there were so many participants from Ukraine, Russia and Moldova and not just from Belarus and that they really liked our Limmud.”