Watch: Hundreds flock to Moscow for international Jewish celebration
MOSCOW – Hundreds of Jews from around the world flocked to Moscow this weekend for the Limmud Jewish learning conference, making it the second-largest event of its kind.
The three-day gig, which drew 1,500 participants to a resort just outside the Russian capital, was the largest Limmud event ever held outside Britain, Limmud International said in a statement.
Chaim Chesler, founder and chair of Limmud FSU, hailed the event as a “big success,” saying it was part of efforts to “raise awareness” to a campaign against anti-Semitism in Europe, spearheaded by the European Jewish Association and The Jerusalem Post.
The online campaign inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge calls on gentiles on the continent to don kippot and other Jewish items and film themselves walking down the street to show their opposition to rising anti-Semitism. The European Jewish organization has produced a series of videos in which young Jews, as well as key Jewish figures, urge both Jews and non-Jews to challenge five friends to post their videos on social media or else donate to the Jewish advocacy group.
“Considering that nine years ago nobody heard about us here, it’s an amazing achievement,” Chesler said, adding that just 30 years ago “Jewish life was completely underground.”
A third of participants this year were first-timers, according to Alexander Piatigorsky, co-founder of the first Moscow event in 2006 and senior executive at one of Russia’s largest cellular providers.
Among the speakers were Alexander Boroda, a senior Chabad rabbi, and Andrey Makarevich, a rock star.
“I came to Limmud FSU this year for the first time after a Jewish friend of mine, who is more religious than me, told me it has great content that broadens your horizons,” said Dennis Sher, who also volunteered at the event, which ended Sunday.
The conference featured a panel discussion by Jewish war veterans who participated in the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp 70 years ago and the inauguration of a photo exhibition celebrating their actions.
The Limmud model began in Britain in 1976 for and by Jewish educators and has since been adopted by Jewish communities from Australia to California. Limmud UK remains the largest, with 2,600 participants this year.
In former Soviet countries and countries with many Russian-speaking Jews, the conferences are organized by local volunteers with help from the Limmud FSU nonprofit, which was founded in 2006.
Video by Eli Mandelbaum.