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The frozen river adjacent to the Klyzma Resort Center where we are staying is slowly thawing. It is 14-16 April and we are part of 750 participants at Limmud Moscow, on this “Shabbat Hagadol,” the last Sabbath before Passover.
As Shabbat approaches, dozens of presenters, many of them well-known throughout the length and breadth of Russia are delivering lectures. The presenters include the advisor on communications to the President of the Russian Federation, senior lecturers on history from the Faculty of Jewish Studies at the University of Moscow, heads of some of the most prominent high-tech companies in the Russian economy, Aryeh Levin, Israel’s first ambassador to Russia after the collapse of communism and the restoration of diplomatic relations, and Israel’s current ambassador, Dorit Golander, among many others.
Dorit Golander: “The idea of Limmud, founded by Chaim Chesler six years ago was at first considered here as the notion of a crazy individual who did not know what he was getting into. But he knew what he was doing. He was very familiar with the Jewish world through his long years of service in the United States and Russia and he saw great potential among young Russian-speaking Jews. A new generation comes to Limmud, year after year at their own expense, in ever-increasing numbers. This is abundant proof that Chesler’s ambitious dreams were correct from the outset. When you look around you, you realize that Chesler and the team of volunteers have laid the foundation for the major educational project in the Jewish life of Russia in the 21st century.”
Just a few of the subjects discussed at the festival were: the work of the Israeli playwright, Hanoch Levine; Jews and ballet, Kabbalah on one foot; the history of the Jews of Moscow, Doctor House and Jewish medical ethics; Should we negotiate with terrorists?; the Jewish theater in Moscow; words to actions on the Internet; krav maga – an Israeli system of self- defense; Osip Mandelstam and the Jewish theater, Behind the scenes of the Israeli media; Russian-Jewish poetry; the anti-Semitism of Stalin; Jabotinsky – a liberal Russian revolutionary; and dozens of others.
The festival began with an electric performance by the all-women Russian pop group “Tatiana,” one of the best known musical ensembles in Russia. Although it was the first day of Limmud, the hall was packed with hundreds of participants. Children sat in the front, young people stood in rows behind them and still further back, seated on chairs were parents and older participants who had come at the urging of their children or grandchildren who had attended previous Limmud events. The organizers had spent a year in planning the events and almost all of the sessions were packed with audiences who continued to fire questions at the speakers long after midnight.