Trans-Carpathian Limmud FSU: Four Days of Jewish Learning and Networking

From November 1st-4th, Uzhgorod, the westernmost city of Ukraine, was the setting for the most recent Limmud FSU program.

Some 600 participants from all over Ukraine, the Russian Federation, Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Slovakia, Israel, Hungary and USA took part in the Conference, marking it as a significant event for the local Jewish community. As always, Limmud FSU’s diversity, rich educational program and sense of unity created a unique atmosphere for learning, networking and communication between the – mostly young – participants.

The local volunteer organizing committee had invited some 80 lecturers and presenters from the FSU, Israel, United States and Europe, who between them, conducted over 150 lectures, master-classes, training sessions, workshops, discussions, tours and cultural events.

The central theme was tolerance and intercultural dialogue, chosen by the organizers because there had never been an ethnic or religious conflict of any consequence in Uzhgorod. The city of Uzhgorod, in the region of Trans-Carpathia on the border with Hungary, is home to many national and ethnic groups speaking different languages, with different customs, traditions, cultures and religions, and yet all of them dwell in peace and harmony. As such this old and beautiful city is a living example of coexistence and tolerance, qualities which are all too often missing in the world today.

Speaking at the opening program, Chaim Chesler, the founder of Limmud FSU, said, “This is the sixth Limmud FSU Conference in Ukraine. We always choose the venue of Limmud in order to learn about the rich Jewish heritage that unfortunately was destroyed during the Holocaust and to ensure the continuity and renewal of Jewish life of the local communities and in this case – in the Trans-Carpathia region”.

Among the presenters were Reuven Din-El, Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine; Senior Knesset Member Faina Kirschenbaum, Rabbi Menachem Ha-Cohen – the Vice President of the Claims Conference and the former Chief-Rabbi of Romania, Grigory Alkhazov, Master-player of the Russian “What? Where? When?” intellectual game club from Moldova; Lev Novozhenov, a well-known Russian television presenter and writer of a series of television programs; Vladimir Vishnevsky, entertainer, television host, popular Russian poet and one of the most quoted writers in the FSU today; Yacov Livne, Director of the Euro-Asian Department of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Igor Pehovich, an actor at the Moscow Taganka Theater, and Yelena Smehova, a Russian writer and journalist.

Conference participants also met with Yuri Pogorelov, the mayor of Uzhgorod, who took part in one of the round-table discussions. The participants joined together in a tour of the city of Uzhgorod and it’s Jewish sites including the local Hesed that serves 1,000 Holocaust survivors in the region, and a coach trip to Mukachevo – the famous center of Jewish life in the past (also known as Munkach) .

A traditional Gala opening was held with the participation of the Budapest Kleizmer Band; popular Jewish-Ukrainian singer, Iryna Rosenfeld, the Uzhgorod Folklore Ensemble, Michael Milmeister, Founder of Zhest (“Gesture”) Pantomime Theater Studio from Germany and the Trans-Carpathian Regional Music and Drama Theater. The Gala event was held in the local Philharmonic Hall which, until 1947, housed the city’s Choral synagogue.