A record 750 participants gathered in the former Russian capital of St Petersburg last weekend for the latest Limmud FSU three-day Jewish festival of learning and culture.

The dynamic, volunteer-driver and pluralistic event was the largest St Petersburg Limmud festival to date, a fact that delighted founder Chaim Chesler.

“We are extremely excited to be a part of one of the most vibrant and flourishing Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, with a rich cultural life,” he said during the conference.

“This is our sixth event in St Petersburg – an important milestone for us and for the entire Jewish community in the area.”

The festival featured lectures, workshops and discussions on the pluralistic spirit of Limmud.

Participant Dr. Aaron Weiss, JDC’s FSU department, told Jewish News:  “I was deeply impressed. It was remarkable in terms of the unprecedented number of participants, the amazing work done by a committed team of the volunteers and in terms of abundance and variety of activities, all of which were conducted at the highest level.

“It is impressive to see active participation by different audiences of different ages from various backgrounds, all of whom unite into a Jewish community event for the continued development of Jewish life in St Petersburg.”

Euro-Asian Jewish Congress president Mikhail Mirilashvili also congratulated the participants and expressed his commitment to the project: “We are pleased to be active partners of Limmud FSU,” he said.

Young and old were among the 750 participants at last weekend’s Limmud FSU in the city of St Petersburg

“EAJC is committed to ensuring that community institutions participate actively in all stages of the event, and that participants would receive information and motivation to become active members of the community life after the conference. In Limmud FSU St Petersburg this year was just the exact atmosphere, and we’re extremely happy for it.”

The top presenters this year included Linor Goralik, a Russian-speaking flash-fiction author, poet and essayist, and Elhanan Nir, Israeli poet and laureate of international and Israeli literary honours including the Wertheim Prize (2008) and Prime Minister’s Prize (2011).

Also in the line-up were historian Lev Lurie, consul general of the State of Israel Olga Slov and Euro-Asian Jewish Congress executive director Haim Ben Yacov.

Photo by Alexandra Stepanova

Dmitry Dikman, senior adviser to the chairman of the board at Genesis Philanthropy Group, said: “We’re attracted by existing projects where people are united by their interest in their Jewish roots and history.

“In this sense, Limmud FSU conferences gather the most relevant audience for us – they unite students, families with children, lecturers and volunteers for several days.

“If the participants are left with a feeling that they spent an educational and informative weekend, we’re considering our task fulfilled”.

The weekend was made possible thanks to its team of volunteers led by Yulia Karasik, Natalia Emelyanova, Regina Pritula, Iulia Anokhina, Faina Roukhlina and others.

Conference supporters included the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Genesis Philanthropy Group, JDC, Jewish Religious Community, Nativ, Jewish Culture House ESOD, Russian Jewish Congress and the Community of Progressive Judaism “Sha’arey Shalom”.

“I feel grateful and want to thank all the volunteers,” said event participant Julia Presman at the closing ceremony. “You can actually see and feel the spark in their eyes.”

Young and old were among the 750 participants at last weekend’s Limmud FSU in the city of St Petersburg

Photo by Alexandra Stepanova

Photo by Masha Lvova-Havdala