Over 500 young Jews to gather in Odessa, Ukraine for the international Limmud FSU Conference

Odessa, Ukraine, October 1, 2013 — Over 500 young Jews from across Eastern Europe will come together in the city of Odessa, October 5-8, for a Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) conference at the Hotel OK Odessa. 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.


During the four-day international conference, participants coming from many countries, including Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Russia, will attend seminars, lectures, presentations, master-classes, round-table discussions and creative workshops on a wide variety of subjects. Some of the topics included in the program are, Jewish spirituality and philosophy, ethical issues, current topics in politics and society, the Arab-Israel conflict, Bible and Talmud, music, dance, and even the secrets of Jewish cuisine. Among the presenters will be prominent historians, scientists, artists, politicians, businessmen, educators and musicians from Israel, America and the FSU.


Odessa, once the second largest Jewish community in Russia from the late 1800s until the 1920s, home to 200,981 Jews in 1939, lost many of its Jews, even being declared Judenrein (rid of Jews) during WWII when many Jews either fled or were murdered. Survivors returned after the war and the community began to revive, though most Jews emigrated in the 1990s. Currently, Odessa claims about 30,000 people who identify as Jews; however the number is thought to be higher as many Jews won’t publicly identify as such due to the country’s history of anti-Semitism, in which being labeled a Jew could hurt a career or negatively affect entry into universities. Despite Jews being counted as just 1% of Odessa’s population, the city is still considered to be a very Jewish city, with its unique humor, slang, and culture. It was the most important Jewish center at the end of 19th Century and beginning of the 20th Century, and was a very important place for the Zionist movement. Prominent Jews from Odessa include Ze’ev Jabotinsky, a Revisionist Zionist leader who founded the Jewish Self-Defense Organization; and writer Isaak Babel who made Odessa’s Moldavanka district famous thanks to his book “Tales of Odessa.”


According to Sandra Cahn, co-founder of Limmud FSU, Odessa is a city renowned not only among the Jews of the Former Soviet Union, but also among those in the United States, Israel, Europe and Asia, as a symbol of free spirit, humor and creativity.


The main theme of this Limmud FSU Conference will be “Tel Aviv-Odessa”, and it will be dedicated to celebrating the 140th birthday anniversary of Chaim Nachman Bialik, who was a pioneer of Modern Hebrew poetry and is recognized as Israel’s national poet. Ayelet Bitan-Shlonsky Chief Curator and Director of the Bialik Complex in Tel Aviv will be the keynote speaker at the opening event at the conference.


Limmud FSU Odessa is taking place thanks to partnership with Nativ – the Israeli Culture Center, KKL – JNF, Claims Conference, Embassy of Israel in Ukraine, Odessa City Hall, JDC, Jewish Agency For Israel, Beit Grand Jewish Cultural Center, Migdal Jewish Community Center, Hillel Ukraine, Tkuma – Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies, and CAF Russia Foundation.


Other celebrities of Jewish heritage with roots in Odessa include, American Illusionist, David Copperfield whose paternal grandparents are from Odessa; Sylvester Stallone whose Jewish great grandmother Rose Labofish fled Odessa to escape pogroms; and Dancing with the Stars’ professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who was born in Odessa.


“Limmud FSU is about the Jewish identity strengthening process in the lives of the Jews living in the Diaspora,” said Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU. “This year’s Limmud in Odessa is dedicated to the 140th anniversary of Chaim Nachman Bialik’s birth and the connection between Odessa and Tel-Aviv. This will be reflected in several of the sessions and lectures as well as exhibitions, discussions and conversations with outstanding lecturers and presenters from Odessa and Tel-Aviv.”


About Limmud FSU:

The first Limmud Conference took place in England in December 1978. Initially a local event, today, after more than 30 years, Limmud has become a worldwide educational phenomenon in more than 60 countries in as many languages. Limmud FSU (Former Soviet Union) for Russian-speaking Jews was founded in 2006 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. Since then Limmud FSU events have taken place in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Israel and the United States – wherever there are communities of young Russian-speaking adults hungry for Jewish knowledge and culture.

All Limmud events, is organized and run entirely by volunteers.

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