One hundred lecturers and guests participated in the Limmud FSU convention on August 15th at the Hamptons in New York, offering and attending 60 lectures and events over the course of an entire day. The event was attended by Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz – Minister of Science and Technology; Israel’s Deputy Consul General Shlomi Kofman; Jewish-American astronaut Dr. Garret Reisman; Chaim Chesler and Sandy Cahn – founders of Limmud; Herzl Makov, director of the Begin Heritage Center; Roman Polonsky, advisor to Natan Sharansky; and others.
Throughout Shabbat preliminary events took place before the main event on Sunday. Read more about them here.
By 10 o’clock Sunday morning, over 900 Russian speaking Jews from the New York area had arrived to participate in Limmud. Over 300,000 Russian speaking Jews reside in the greater New York area today; “every 5th Jew in New York speaks Russian”, stated one of the Federation representatives who arrived at the event.
Founder Chaim Chesler, formerly Jewish Agency treasurer and one of the leaders of the great Aliyah from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in the early 1990’s, said at the opening event: “FSU marks success after success at its conferences, which accommodate hundreds of Jews of Russian descent from around the world, who thirst for intellectual knowledge. We are blessed with the cooperation of hundreds of lecturers and dignitaries who come to speak in front of this audience. I define the success of this project to as “miraculous”, since it allows Russian speaking Jews the opportunity to reach mainstream American Judaism, and to be accepted as equals by Israelis and Americans”.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky relayed his welcoming remarks through his senior advisor – Roman Polonsky.
The guest of honor was Jewish-American astronaut Dr. Garret Reisman, who participated in the meeting of U.S Atlantis with Soviet counterpart, Soyuz spacecraft. Dr. Reisman opened the event with remarks in Russian, and spoke about his study of Russian before he reached the Russian “Space City”. The audience was delighted to hear the surprise guest describe joint training sessions, as well as personal ties, with Israel and its top astronaut, the late Ilan Ramon z”l and his late son Assaf z”l.
Click here to read the fascinating day in our blog.
The next guest, also a surprise to the participants, was Shlomi Kofman, Israel’s Deputy Consul General in New York. Kofman, who had taken up the post only a few days earlier, also surprised the audience by opening in Russian. He related that he was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, and moved to Israel at a young age. He described the education he had received at home from his Zionistic parents.
Herzl Makov, director of the Begin Heritage Center, welcomed the participants and said: “I do not know what Menachem Begin would say to you if he met you, but I assume he would kiss every lady over the age of 15 on the hand, and hug each and every one of you”.
Matthew Bronfman, one of the prominent supporters of Limmud and chair of its steering committee, welcomed the participants and explained that future conferences will take place in Odessa, and in Moldova, where his grandfather was born.
The event was further enhanced with performances by cantor Netanel Hershtik from Israel, Leonid Ptashka, Marina Maximilian-Blumin, and others.