On Sunday 7 November in New Orleans, Limmud FSU celebrated five years of intensive educational activity among young Russian-speaking Jews in countries of the Former Soviet Union, the United States and Israel.
The event was celebrated by a festive reception and celebration for delegates to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America which took place that week in New Orleans. The event was hosted by the philanthropist Matthew Bronfman, chairman of the International Steering Committee of Limmud FSU, and one of its most prominent supporters, together with Natan Sharansky, the Chairman of JAFI.
Representing Israel at the event was Prof. Avishai Braverman, Minister for the Minorities, who said that although he was attending a Limmud event for the first time, he had heard all about it and was particularly impressed by its liberal and pluralistic character. Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency, congratulated the founders of Limmud. He singled out Chaim Chesler for his “inexhaustible energy that touches every project he turns his hand to. Limmud is an extraordinary educational enterprise that provides something for everyone and that is why it attracts such a large number of participants from all over the world. Limmud strengthens Jewish pride among young Diaspora Jews and that is why the Jewish Agency supports and will continue to support it.”
Matthew Bronfman pointed out the special role of the hundreds of Limmud volunteers and explained that the reason he personally invests so much time, energy and resources in it, is that he is convinced that the best possible method to strengthen Jewish identity among the young generation of Diaspora Jews is by creating a meaningful educational platform and their own involvement as volunteers seems to be the crucial element that attracts them.
The program was completed by a rare appearance of the Jewish-American Russian-speaking, New Jersey-born astronaut, Dr Garret Reisman, wearing his NASA uniform. He told an engrossed audience about his service with NASA, his ties to the late Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon and his widow, Rona, and his cooperation in space with fellow astronauts from Russia. Reisman said he had spoken at a Limmud FSU event in August in the Hamptons, New York and was astonished to see how Limmud was able to enthuse young Jewish adults and to motivate them to seek out their roots.
Musical entertainment was provided by a specially-created ensemble, the New Orleans Limmud FSU Jazz Band featuring virtuoso banjoist, Amy Sharpe, who herself has Russian Jewish roots. The Masters of Ceremonies were three Limmud FSU local chairpersons, Alexander Piyatagorsky from Russia, Yigal Kotler from the USA and the prominent TV and radio journalist and commentator, Yaron Deckel, from Israel.
After his speech at the General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Reisman, to the stage and publically invited him to immigrate to Israel. Dr Reisman warmly thanked him for the invitation but replied “I am indeed an astronaut, but in this case, I’ll have to consult my wife…” Later on, back stage, the prime minister was photographed together with the astronaut, the founders of Limmud FSU, Chaim Chesler and Sandy Cahn and Limmud FSU COO Roman Kogan.
picture caption (left to right) Chaim Chesler, Founder Limmud FSU,. NASA astronaut Dr Garret E. Reisman, Sarah and Benjamin Netanyahu, Sandy Cahn, Co-founder Limmud FSU