Over 800 young Russian-American Jews from across the country came together in Parsippany, this past weekend, March 28-30, for Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union), a three-day festival of Jewish learning.
Described as the biggest gathering of Russian Jews in North America, the festival featured lectures, workshops, round-table discussions, music and a wide-range of cultural events in three different languages – Russian, English and Hebrew.
Organizers estimated that there are 750,000 to 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union in the U.S., with about half living in New York and New Jersey. The conference was organized by young participants from the Russian-Jewish community.
“Limmud FSU has been successfully bringing together nearly a thousand Russian-speaking Jews, who are often described as marginally engaged in Jewish life, for a weekend of Jewish learning and culture for the last five years, “ said Alina Bitel, chair of Limmud FSU USA. “Russian-speaking Jewish activists debunk the persistent myth of lack of interest in Jewish education and work tirelessly to create a conference for their peers with the understanding of this group’s unique cultural interests and intellectual approach.”
Presenters included Israeli author Lihi Lapid; Knesset members Ronen Hoffman and Omar Bar Lev; International Fellowship of Christians and Jews president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein; celebrity rabbi Shmuley Boteach; philanthropist Feliks Frenkel; entrepreneur Eli Itin of Amdocs; Adam Shwartz, director of Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute; and Yoram Dori, advisor to Israeli president Shimon Peres.
“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,” said Matthew Bronfman, chairman of the International Steering Committee of Limmud FSU, who delivered a session at Limmud. “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.”