Preparations for the Limmud FSU Conference in Ashkelon, September 24-25 are under way, which is expected to attract 1,200 Russian-speaking Israelis. But, first, a serious mini-Limmud FSU was held in Ashleklon, June 13-14, 2008 to discuss important societal concerns, programming, outreach and recruitment, and frame the important pilot initiative of Russian-speaking Jewish Israelis to be held in September. The first of its kind, this engagement effort reinforces the need to integrate Russian-speaking Israelis into the cultural fabric of Israeli society.

Why now? For many years, research demonstrates that one of the largest and talented émigré groups to join Israeli society came from the former Soviet bloc countries. However, recent studies have shown that Russian-speaking Israelis are drifting apart from veteran Israelis, creating a schism among young people in Israeli society. A great number of Russian-speaking Israelis reside in and around Ashkelon and have created an isolated community apart from general Israeli social and cultural norms. This is also true in other communities across Israel in which a significant number of Russian-speaking Israelis reside.

The goal of Limmud FSU in Ashkelon is to strengthen the fabric of the local Israeli society by helping young Russian-speaking professionals become volunteers capable of assuming leadership roles in Israeli communities with significant Russian-speaking populations. We know that The Limmud FSU Conference in Ashkelon will provide meaningful Jewish experiences for a generation of young Russian-speaking Jewish adults. Consistent with Limmud FSU principles and goals, the program will focus on its commitment to renewing and strengthening Jewish life by reconnecting this population with their Jewish heritage and traditions through a unique, dynamic, pluralistic model of informal Jewish learning.

Over 145 participants attended the mini-Limmud FSU, talked about difficult issues and listened to knowledgeable experts, thus laying the groundwork for the major effort in September. Topics for the sessions included themes necessary to entice young Russian-speaking Israel to join with others for this important gathering, and to really get connected with the driving need to take responsibility for renewing Jewish life locally and to participate in local community-building initiatives. Representing a broad group of professions and interests, participants came from the high-tech industry, the legal and business field, music and the arts, community organizations, and the IDF to discuss various topics and ideas important to the success of the Limmud FSU Conference in Ashkelon, September 24-25, 2008.

The attached program reflects the scope of the mini-Limmud and the photos highlight the excitement and interaction of the participants.