The Limmud FSU 2008 Ashkelon Organizing Committee, composed of 60 Russian-speaking Israelis from across the country, held a strategic planning retreat, August 1-2, 2008, in Jerusalem. Committee members included two highly articulate and energized Russian-speaking women officers from the Israeli Defense Forces. Working through the night with energy and drive, the Committee prepared for the Limmud FSU 2008 Conference in Ashkelon, September 25-26, 2008. Committee discussions focused on programming, guest presenters, psychosocial aspects of successful conference management, logistics, and outreach.

Retreat sessions included intense dialogue with Amos Lerhman, a psychologist, who stressed inter-group relations, group dynamics, and the psychosocial aspects of teamwork, so critical to young leadership development. Avraham Infeld, a noted Jewish educator and president, Chais Family Foundation, addressed the group with a lively and motivational discussion on the importance and place of Russian-speaking Israelis as a key component to building a strong Israeli society in the coming years.

Gregory Kulter, a reform rabbi from Moscow, is now an Israeli citizen and currently serves as volunteer co-chair of the Limmud FSU Ashkelon Program Committee. Kutler outlined the principles of the Ashkelon Conference program, how to work with volunteers, and how to prepare them for the Conference. Jenya Gayefeski, educational consultant, Melitz Center for Jewish-Zionist Education, presented an overview on how to conduct meaningful educational workshops. Stressing principles of Limmud and the role of volunteers, Raymond Simonson, executive director, Limmud International UK shared his expertise and knowledge from a global perspective.

Essentially, a 28-hour, continuous, pluralistic Jewish learning experience, the Conference is designed to appeal to a broad range of interests from Israel music and art to spiritual and intellectual Jewish topics, including text study, Hebrew literature, and the greening of Israel from a Judaic perspective. This pilot initiative in Ashkelon will have approximately 120 sessions, feature leading entertainers, over 100 presenters, and special performances by the Gesher Theatre and Israeli singing star, Arkady Duchin.

With an expected attendance of 1,200, including roughly 300 Russian-speaking members of the IDF, the Limmud FSU 2008 Conference is expected to be an outstanding success based on advanced registration and an excellent roster of speakers.