The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition
Sep. 23, 2008
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST
A two-day conference on Jewish culture and learning for Israelis from the former Soviet Union opens in Ashkelon on Thursday, in an attempt to strengthen their Jewish identity.
The first-ever Limmud FSU event is based on the 28-year-old Jewish cultural and study event that originated in England and is now being offered in 35 cities around the world, organizers said.
The 27-hour half-million dollar conference, which is being primarily funded by US Jewish federations and philanthropists, aims to offer new and veteran immigrants an intense dose of Jewish culture in a pluralistic setting.
The volunteer-driven event at Ashkelon Academic College’s convention center will include lectures, workshops and discussion panels, and will feature an array of secular Russian-Israeli poets and artists, including the popular Gesher Theater, as well as both a Reform and an Orthodox rabbi.
“This is the first time that participants from the former Soviet Union in Israel are taking responsibility in the creation of their Jewish identity on a pluralistic basis,” said Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU.
He said that there would be 150 sessions by 200 lecturers on a wide range of issues.
The participants in the event, which will be run in a mix of Hebrew and Russian, are mostly immigrants in their 20s and 30s who learned about the program by word of mouth or on the Internet.
The idea evolved after a similar event was held in the former Soviet Union in 2006 and attracted many Russian-Israelis.
Organizers said many of the largely secular FSU immigrants had been disconnected from Jewish education.
“There is a strong feeling that Jewish education aimed at Russian immigrants in Israel has not succeeded in attracting the young, intellectual, largely secular crowd,” said Michael Wegier, an event organizer. “The idea here is to bring everyone together in a very pluralistic and open-minded event.”
“This is a project that will allow immigrants from the former Soviet Union to learn about their past, and to shape their future,” said Matthew Bronfman, the program’s honorary international chairman and chairman of the World Jewish Congress.