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Study festival draws Jews with FSU roots
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Study festival draws Jews with FSU roots

Building on last year’s “amazing success,” hundreds of Jews with recent roots in the former Soviet Union will descend on Princeton March 15-18 for a weekend of “dynamic, pluralistic” Jewish learning.

The Limmud FSU conference at the Princeton Marriott Forrestal Village will include sessions on art, literature, Holocaust remembrance, anti-Semitism, and Israel. Sessions will be conducted in Russian, Hebrew, and English.

Last year’s event, an offshoot of what has become a global network of Limmud festivals, drew 650 participants.

“This year’s conference is drawing participants from all over — Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore — because the buzz really got out after last year that this is the place to be,” said Limmud FSU cofounder Sandra Cahn, foundation executive and philanthropist. “This is all about culturally connecting Russian-speaking Jews in a pluralistic manner.”

Like the Limmud NY conference held in East Brunswick in February, Limmud FSU will feature an array of concurrent sessions and lectures along with performances, Shabbat services, film screenings, dancing, and singing.

Presenters will include Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren; author and television personality Rabbi Shmuley Boteach; Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and vice president of the World Jewish Congress; and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

This year’s program will include a panel featuring international activists in the movement to free Soviet Jewry, marking the 25th anniversary of a massive rally on the National Mall in Washington that drew 250,000 protestors demanding freedom for the Russians.

“Last year was my first Limmud, and I had a really wonderful experience,” said Lev Golinkin of East Windsor, who is volunteering at this year’s event. “I had never been around people like myself who were born in the Soviet Union, but grew up here, who switch from Russian to English mid-sentence.”

Golinkin said he had been “astounded by the breadth of subjects and speakers.”

“Before last year, this was just a one-day event, and now it’s this multi-faceted program,” said Golinkin. “It is a very relaxed atmosphere. I saw Orthodox Jews, Reform Jews, unaffiliated Jews. There was something for everyone.”

The program will also feature a tribute to the late New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who died last month.

“Mayor Koch played a meaningful role in the resettlement of many thousands of Russian Jews who came to the New York area,” said Cahn. “He was always open and understanding to all cultures in New York and was very open to the Russian-Jewish community.”

There are 750,000 to 1,000,000 Russian-American Jews in the United States, about half living in New York and New Jersey.

Limmud FSU began in Russia and Ukraine and now operates there as well as in Eastern Europe and Israel. This is its fourth year in America.

“It is a really good place to explore your Jewish journey wherever you might be,” said Cahn.

To register or for more information, go to limmudfsuus.org.

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