Hundreds of Russian-speaking Jews have taken part in Limmud FSU’s Israel festival after the annual event was cancelled in 2020 owing to coronavirus restrictions.
Last year’s three-day get-together at Kibbutz Shefayim, just north of
Tel Aviv, welcomed 700 participants and volunteers for a programme of more than 130 sessions for adults, plus others for children.
Topics included heroes from the Bible, love and erotica in Yiddish literature, the history of the first Hebrew-speaking school in pre-state Israel, and Russian-speaking Israelis in the country’s political dialogue. Others covered Russian-language media in Israel, Jewish heroism, DIY clothing alterations, “helicopter parenting”, and Israel’s water resources as a tool for influence in the region.
The sessions were all washed down with live musical performances including by Russian-born Israeli actress, singer and pianist Ania Bukstein, and local band Gefilte Drive, performing well-loved Yiddish songs.
In a nod to the electoral importance of Israel’s Russian speakers, event organisers welcomed several Israeli ministers, including Moldova-born finance minister Avigdor Lieberman. Other senior figures included housing minister Ze’ev Elkin, former Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Knesset finance committee chair Alex Kushnir – all born in Ukraine, from where tens of thousands have migrated in recent years.
World Zionist Organization chair Yaakov Hagoel explained that Jewish culture in the former Soviet states
“was once suppressed by a communist regime that persecuted Jews and Jewish education”, adding that “now… a new generation has risen”
Marina Yudborovsky, chief executive of
the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which supported the event, said the conference was “an excellent opportunity for fostering strong connections and building a robust dialogue between Israel and the diaspora, a critical component in today’s climate”.
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