New York, Over 500 young Russian-American Jews from across the country will come together at Princeton University, May 11-13, for the first-ever three-day Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) Conference in the United States. Limmud FSU is a festival of Jewish learning featuring a packed program of lectures, workshops, round-table discussions, music and a wide-range of cultural events to be presented in three different languages – Russian, English and Hebrew.
The inaugural three-day conference is being held in the U.S. in light of the continued disconnect between the Russian-American Jewish community and the greater American Jewish community, reflecting the participants’ desire to maintain their Russian Jewish culture while living in the U.S. There is an estimated 750,000 to 1 million Russian-American Jews in the U.S., with about half living in New York and New Jersey. The entire conference and its content are organized by the young participants from the Russian community.
“Limmud FSU is a unique opportunity for the Russian-speaking Jewish community to create something new, educational, thought provoking, and most importantly - our own,” said Alina Bitel, a participant from New York. “The program inspires pluralistic approach to Jewish engagement and fills a void that has been created for those who don't find a place for themselves in traditional Jewish institutions.
Among the presenters at the conference are leading academics, politicians, writers and artists hailing from the U.S., Israel, Russia and elsewhere. Some of the presenters include: Yossi Bachar, chairman of Israel Discount Bank, who will speak about the Israeli economy as it relates to the global economic crisis, Ronen Plot, director general of Israel’s Ministry for Public Diplomacy and the Diaspora, and Micah Levinson, an actor in the Oscar-nominated Israeli film ‘Footnote.’ Other topics at the conference will be: Jewish philanthropy, Israel and the Iranian threat, the Arab Spring and the future of Israel, Russian media in the U.S., and numerous other topics.
The conference will include a special panel that will examine both sides of the disconnection and attempt to find ways to bridge the two communities. Panelists at the session will represent both the Russian-American Jewish community and also the greater American Jewish community and will feature participant engagement within the dialogue.
An emphasis at the conference will also be placed on the accomplishments of Prof. Albert Einstein, who lived and taught at Princeton University. Keynote lectures on Einstein will be given by Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson, president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, former President of Hebrew U and the academic director of the Einstein Archives at Hebrew U and its copyrights. In his will, Albert Einstein left the Hebrew University his personal papers and the intellectual copyright to them, as well as the right to use his image. The Einstein Archives recently became one of the first scientific archives in the world to be accessible online. There will also be an exclusive guided tour of historical Einstein sites on Princeton’s campus.
“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 Committee of Limmud FSU, who will also deliver 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.”
The Limmud phenomenon began in Britain nearly 32 years ago and is now a world-famous educational movement. Limmud FSU, founded six years ago by Chaim Chesler, former head of JAFI’s delegation in the FSU, and Sandra Cahn, a philanthropist from New York, supports and reinforces Jewish education and identity to Jews from the FSU, the U.S. and Israel. This unique conference, like all Limmud events, is organized and run entirely by volunteers.