Marking its tenth year of activities worldwide, Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) held its second festival in Toronto, Canada.

Last weekend, 20-22 November, over 450 (mostly) young Russian-speaking Jews gathered in the Blue Mountains Resort, not far from Toronto. The Jewish population of Canada numbers nearly 400,000 and some half of them live in Toronto. Moreover, about 70,000 of these were either born in the USSR themselves or their parents were.


As with all Limmud events world-wide, this Limmud FSU Conference, was organized and administered by volunteers. It was held in cooperation with the UJA – Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto and other local partners and the participants came from across Canada. They could choose between more than 80 presentations, lectures, master-classes, workshops and cultural events touching upon a wide range of Jewish lifestyle issues and culture, history, current affairs, the Arab-Israel conflict, the Middle East, artistic performances and more. There was also a special program for “Young Limmudniks.”

Among prominent speakers was Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich, the noted “Prisoner of Zion,” who in 1970, together with a small group of young Jews, attempted to hijack an airplane in Leningrad and fly it to freedom. He pointed out that the struggle of the Jews of the USSR for freedom was a crucial part of the eventual collapse of Communism and that every young Jew should realize the significance of the struggle. Other guests and speakers included, Gidi Grinstein, head of the Re’ut Institute, jazz virtuoso Leonid Ptashka together with singer Iryna Rosenfeld, Assaf Bracha, Israel’s Consul in Toronto, and many others.

During the event, a special photographic exhibit, “Let My People Go!” marking 25 years since the opening of the gates of the Soviet Union to free Jewish emigration, curated by Limmud English editor, Asher Weill, was shown. The over 50 historic photographs included several depicting the role played by Canadians in that epic struggle. The exhibit has already been shown in the Knesset, Jerusalem, with the participation of Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency, and government ministers and prominent Refuseniks and “Prisoners of Zion.” This exhibition will now travel to other forthcoming Limmud FSU events around the world.

The philanthropist Shaul Silver, speaking on behalf of the Toronto Jewish Federation, said that the Jews of Canada stand steadfastly united with Israel through good times and in bad, and will continue to do so in the future. “There is critical importance to unity: and I can state with total confidence that that Canadian Jews are united in helping one another at any time.”

“I feel that in these three days I have learned many fascinating things about Judaism, about Israel, and about myself” says Maya Rabinovitch. The 20 year-old had come to Limmud with her parents and her two brothers. ”The atmosphere here is that of one big family gathering including friends who I met a year ago at the first Limmud. It is a great privilege to be able to have the opportunity to learn, pass on the knowledge and strengthen our own sense of unity.”

In addressing the audience at the gala closing ceremony, the Joint Co-founder of Limmud FSU, philanthropist Sanda Cahn from New York said, “The spirit of Limmud is something very special and our ability to bring people together is even more important. The Limmud framework reaches out to all, and the hundreds of young people who are here for the second time is proof of the atmosphere of meaningfulness which marks all our programs.”