May 1, 2012 by Dan Brown
Just two months ago, readers of The Jerusalem Post voted a story published in the paper by Gil Shefler on Limmud FSU’s St. Petersburg Conference as the “Leading Story of the Jewish World in 2011.” The award was presented Sunday at the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York to Matthew Bronfman – Limmud FSU Inetrnational Steering Committee Chair and Dr. Nona Kuchina and Moshe Shneerson (Israel) of Dr. Nona International – the Deputy Chairs of Limmud FSU’s steering committee.
In remarks, Steve Linde – the Post’s eiditor-in-chief said, “Limmud FSU started just six years ago, founded by Chaim Chesler of Israel and Sandra Cahn of New York, whom we are delighted to see here with us today, together with Michael Chlenov, President of the Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Russia. They perceived a real need among young Russian-speaking Jews for a framework in which they could study Jewish topics in the widest possible sense and in an open and pluralist environment – from Jewish and national identity, Bible and Talmud, Jewish history, culture including dance, music, literature, the visual arts and much more besides. In some 20 Limmud FSU conferences held so far across Russia, Ukraine, Israel and the United States, thousands of young adults have participated, studied and enjoyed hundreds of presentations on an endless array of subjects given by some of the leading academics, public figures, politicians, writers, journalists and artists from across the Jewish world, all specially geared to Russian speakers.”
Responding, Matthew Bronfman said, “For me, my active participation in Limmud FSU marks a certain closing of a circle. My grandfather, Samuel Bronfman, was born in Bessarabia, then part of Imperial Russia but now in Moldova. Samuel was one of eight children of Mindel and Yechiel Bronfman. He and his parents were Jewish refugees from Czarist Russia’s anti-Semitic pogroms, and they migrated to Canada at the turn of the century.
In 1903, the family bought a hotel business, and my grandfather, noting that much of the profit was in alcoholic beverages, set up shop as a liquor distributor. Bronfman’s Distillers Corporation acquired the Seagram Company in 1928.
In 1952, he established the Samuel and Sadie Bronfman Family Foundation, and thus laid the foundation for our family’s major involvement in philanthropic work, both within the Jewish world and within the community in general. I am proud to be able to continue in my grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, and Limmud FSU is, for me, one of the most important and gratifying enterprises with which I have been involved. It reaches out to one of the population groups most in need of the support of world Jewry, so that after decades of Communist oppression and the Holocaust, young Russian-speaking Jews can reconnect to their heritage, their identity, and the Jewish people.”
Dr. Nona Kuchina added, “For us, it has been an exciting and moving experience to be associated with Limmud FSU. For ourselves, also immigrants to Israel from the Former Soviet Union, it is heart-warming and exciting to see thousands of young Russian speakers, connecting with their Jewish past, showing a deep thirst to extend their Jewish knowledge and to broaden their identity as Jews. For us, it also has a deep personal significance, so that we can see our children and grandchildren gaining a lasting commitment to their faith, history and traditions.
Moshe [Shneerson] and I are particularly moved by the fact that Limmud events worldwide are planned, administered and run by the participants themselves, all of whom are volunteers. This selfless attitude is something that resonates deeply with me as a physician. It is wonderful that The Jerusalem Post readers have recognized the work of Limmud and we too, are proud and happy to be part of the Limmud FSU family.”