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Friday, 08 December 2017

Limmud FSU in St Petersburg: Exploring Jewish identity

St Petersburg was a good choice for a Limmud gathering. The first Jews appeared in the city immediately after its foundation in the 18th century and it is now one of the most vibrant and flourishing communities in the former Soviet Union, with roughly 100,000 Jews, making it the second-largest in Russia.

The cultural, social and religious life in St Petersburg’s Jewish community ties in with Limmud. The annual conferences, started in 2011, reflect high intellectual calibre and cultural-oriented programming, and the city is Russia’s cultural capital.

“Limmud FSU is a hotbed for the expression and strengthening of Jewish identity, connection to the Jewish people and the Jewish tradition,” said the city’s Orthodox community director Rabbi Shaul Brook. “It is an excellent project and a model for finding paths to the hearts and souls of the participants. The organisers of the event are a symbol and an example of how, with good will and willingness, we can find the common denominator that unifies all the members of the Jewish community in the city.”

Yana Agmon, regional director of “Nativ” in Russia and Belarus, said the festival was also “a safe place for young Jews to acquire knowledge, to learn, to learn, and then to learn more — to understand the Jewish past and to become a part of the Jewish and Israeli present. The format of Limmud, which is based on the freedom of election of each participant, cannot characterise better the multifaceted modern Israel,” she added. “It provides an opportunity to plunge into the realities of modern Israeli society. We are pleased to see how the Jewish community of St Petersburg acquaints itself with topics related to Israel and meets Israeli representatives”.

Daniel Jezmer, 25, a volunteer from Israel, said: “I flew especially to Limmud St. Petersburg to see how it is done in another country. I wanted to share experiences and adopt some ideas and initiatives for the Israeli Limmud FSU, which I have been involved in for four years, and was also happy for the chance to meet old friends and benefit from the weekend. I was struck by Rami Sherman’s lecture about the hostage-taking operation in Entebbe. I could not hope to get personally acquainted and communicate with the participants in this operation, so I’m especially grateful for it.”