More than 300 young Russian-speaking Jews have taken part in a one-day annual Limmud FSU event in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.
It was the fourth such gathering in Moldova and the event has become one of the most eagerly anticipated for the country’s young people, many of whom are heavily involved in the renaissance of Moldovan Jewry.
Limmud FSU — founded just over 10 years ago — has formed a focus for young Jews who are eager to learn more about their roots and want to express their Jewish identity.
The founder of Limmud FSU, former Jewish Agency treasurer Chaim Chesler, spoke at the opening ceremony of Sunday’s conference. He told a packed audience: “There is no doubt that Limmud FSU has become an important element in the Moldova Jewish community, not just in providing events packed with Jewish content, but also for the many people who have joined us as volunteers, working on the planning, programming, logistics and administration of all our events. Through this, no less important, we’re happy to be nurturing a new generation of leaders who are creating or revitalising the Jewish community in Moldova”.
The Limmud FSU event was held in Kedem, the Chisinau Jewish Community Centre. With more than 60 different sessions on offer, and 50 prominent speakers from around the world, the festival offered a dynamic and pluralistic array of culture, creativity and learning/ Subjects ranged from art to Jewish culture and tradition, history, politics, academics, business, Zionism ,Jewish cooking and lifestyles. Other themes for the day included Jewish views of astrology and superstition, childrearing, demystifying Shabbat, and religious Zionism.
Limmud FSU’s co-founder, the New York philanthropist Sandra Cahn, said: “Since its inaugural conference in Moscow in 2006, Limmud FSU events have attracted more than 50,000 participants in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Israel, North America, Western Europe and Australia. We hope that our conferences in Moldova will continue and bring a spirit of intellectual freedom to young Jews in a liberal, pluralistic, egalitarian, non-demanding and gender-free atmosphere of study – the personification of the Hebrew word ‘Limmud’ in its widest possible sense”.
Among the featured presenters were the Moldovan minister of culture, Monika Babuk; the chairman of the board of the Jewish Museum and Centre of Tolerance in Moscow, Rabbi Boruch Gorin; Russian-Israeli comedian Ilya Axelrod, and Dr Joel Rappel, the founder of Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s archive at Boston University.
The president of the Jewish community of Moldova and honorary chair of Limmud FSU Moldova, Alexander Bilinkis, was one of the most popular presenters for his lecture about entrepreneurship and business —hardly a surprise as he is one of the most successful businessmen in the country.
At the closing event, Mr Bilinkis told the young audience: “Limmud FSU is a tradition that unites people who are close to each other in spirit. It’s a celebration of intellect, and the place of gathering for the most interesting, bright and educated audience. I want to thank all involved, and may our next event will be an even bigger success than this one”.
Roman Kogan, Limmud FSU executive director, highlighted the volunteerism, a guiding principle of the very first Limmud in the UK almost 40 years ago. He said: “We cannot praise highly enough our volunteers who undertake the planning, programming, recruitment and administration of Limmud FSU Moldova, that wouldn’t be possible without enormous efforts made by its team of local leaders and volunteers”. The Moldovan organisers included Marina Shuster, Kolea Railean, Julia Sheinman and Galina Rybnikova.
Tributes were also paid to the event’s sponsors: the Claims Conference, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Nativ, and the Jewish community of Moldova