April 15, 2012 by Dan Brown
With the goal of helping to bridge their disconnect from the American Jewish community, over 500 Russian-Jewish-American young adults will gather at Princeton University, May 11th-13th, for the first-ever three-day Limmud FSU Conference in the United States. The entire conference, including its content, is organized by volunteers from the U.S. Russian-speaking Jewish community and reflects the participants’ desire to maintain their Russian Jewish culture while living in the United States. An estimated 750,000 to 1 million Russian-American Jews live in the country, with about half residing in New York and New Jersey.
Among the presenters at the conference are leading academics, politicians, writers and artists hailing from the United States, Israel, Russia and elsewhere including, Yossi Bachar, chairman of Israel Discount Bank, who will speak about the Israeli economy as it relates to the global economic crisis; Ronen Plot, director general of Israel’s Ministry for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs; and Micah Levinson, an actor in the Oscar-nominated Israeli film ‘Footnote.’ Other topics at the conference will include Jewish philanthropy, Israel and the Iranian threat, the Arab Spring and the future of Israel, Russian media in the United States and more.
“Limmud FSU is a unique opportunity for our Russian-speaking Jewish community to create something new, educational, thought provoking and most importantly – our own,” said Alina Bitel, a participant from New York, in a pre-Pesach conversation with eJP. “The program inspires pluralistic approach to Jewish engagement and fills a void that has been created for those who don’t find a place for themselves in traditional Jewish institutions.
The conference will also include a special panel that will examine both sides of the disconnection and explore new ways to bridge the communities. Panelists will come from both the Russian-Jewish-American and the broader American Jewish communities and will feature participant engagement within the conversation.
In addition, the conference will place an emphasis on Prof. Albert Einstein, who lived and taught at Princeton University. Keynote lectures on Einstein will be presented by Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson, president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, former President of Hebrew U and the academic director of the Einstein Archives at Hebrew U and its copyrights. In his will, Albert Einstein left the Hebrew University his personal papers and the intellectual copyright to them, as well as the right to use his image. The Einstein Archives recently became one of the first scientific archives in the world to be accessible online.
Speaking to eJP about the upcoming conference, Matthew Bronfman, chairman of the International Committee of Limmud FSU, said, “Limmud FSU has revolutionized pluralistic Jewish engagement of Russian-speaking Jews and is making a great impact in strengthening Jewish identity through a unique educational experience of Jewish history and culture. This initiative also helps to strengthen Jewish communal life among Russian-American Jews by inspiring our participants to be more active in their communities through volunteering.”
About: The Limmud phenomenon began in Britain nearly 32 years ago and is now a world-renowned educational movement.
LimmudFSU, founded in 2006 by Chaim Chesler and Sandra Cahn, supports and reinforces Jewish education and identity for Jews in the former Soviet Union and the Russian-Jewish demographic in the United States and Israel. Previous Limmud FSU festival programs have taken place in Russia, Ukraine, Israel and WestHampton, New York.
The Princeton conference will feature programing in Russian, English and Hebrew. This unique conference, like all Limmud events, is organized and run entirely by volunteers.