Record Number of Russian-Speaking Jews Attend the First Ever Limmud FSU Conference in the San Francisco Bay Area

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Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky awarded former US Secretary of State George P. Shultz with a life achievement award for his contribution to the struggle of Soviet Jewry

From left to right: Shlomi Kaufman, Sandy Cahn, Natan Sharansky, Yossi Yonah, George Shultz, Ofir Akunis, Chaim Chesler, Deborah Lipstadt & Julius Berman

Some 800 Jews gathered on the weekend of November 17-19 for the first ever Limmud FSU West Coast 2017 conference in the San Francisco Bay Area; the biggest Jewish event geared towards the Russian-speaking Jewish community in the whole region. It took place at Marriott City Center Oakland, after months of work done by a devoted team of young adult volunteers and leadership, and featured an array of more than 100 diverse sessions and speakers from around the world on various subjects, with a special focus on the field of innovation, hi-tech and technology.

From left to right: Natan Sharansky, George Shultz, and Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler

The exciting event kicked off on Friday with a ceremony honoring former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who was deeply involved in the struggle of Soviet Jewry during the 1980’s and 90’s when immigration from USSR was denied. Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in Soviet prisons, Israeli Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis and the Claims Conference President Rabbi Julius Berman presented Shultz with an honorary award.

Creative workshops and inspirational discussion groups at the Limmud FSU conference in San Francisco

Among the featured presenters at the conference were the Jewish-Ukrainian born WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, with a special Q&A session that was attended by hundreds of the participants, first Jewish astronaut Garrett Reisman, who gave a highly anticipated lecture about his experience in space, Historian Prof. Deborah Lipstadt about Holocaust denial and the rising Antisemitism, Israel’s Consul General to the Pacific North West Shlomi Kofman, Undervud band from Russia, and more.

Standing up for the national anthem, over 800 proud participants join the Limmud FSU West Coast conference

Another highlight of the event was the launch of a special exhibition “Shimon Peres – Vision and Innovation”, produced by Limmud FSU together with the late president’s family and the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. Tsvia Walden, Peres’ daughter, curated the exhibition.

Playing chess at the Limmud FSU West Coast conference

“The Russian-speaking Jewish community in the West Coast is flourishing, and this milestone–a record number of participants in our first ever event in the Bay Area – is the proof of it,” said Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler, “we also were very honored to be the chosen spot where such exciting events, as the launch of the late President Peres exhibition and honoring George Shultz”.

Teenagers get involved with the Zionist movement and show their support for the State of Israel at the Limmud FSU West Coast conference

This event could not have happened without the generous support of Koret Foundation, Jim Joseph Foundation, Fooksman Family Charitable Fund, Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), Israeli Consulate General of the Pacific Northwest, World Jewish Congress, Claims Conference, Jewish Community Foundation of East Bay, Ukrainian Jewish Encounter and other donors and partners.

Audience participation at special sessions of the Limmud FSU West Coast conference at took place in the San Francisco Bay area

“Our previous West Coast 2016 conference in Los Angeles was such a great experience that the decision to have our next Limmud FSU conference in the Bay area was an easy one”, said the co-founder of Limmud FSU, Sandra Cahn,” and this year’s strong lineup and remarkable attendance is another testimony of the powerful appeal of Jewish learning in a pluralistic, dynamic and engaging environment”.

Children play a big part in the success of the Limmud FSU. They are pictured here delighting in the festivities at the Limmud FSU West Coast conference

Leo Hmelnitsky, the chair of Limmud FSU West Coast organizing committee: “I want to thank all volunteers who dedicated countless hours over the last year developing an incredibly rich program and working on all the logistics for the conference. Our main goal was and will continue to be inspiring participants to strengthen their Jewish identity, to learn about and celebrate our heritage, to connect to Israel and many local Jewish organizations, and to ultimately take the next step on their personal Jewish journey.”

About Limmud FSU:

From left to right: Julius Berman, Steve Katz, Joel Rappel, Natan Sharansky, and Chaim Seidler Feller on Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory

Limmud FSU is a nonprofit founded 11 years ago by Chaim Chesler, former treasurer of the Jewish Agency, and Sandra Cahn, a philanthropist from New York. Since its inaugural conference in Moscow in 2006, Limmud FSU has created an independent educational and communal network of annual conferences and festivals, attracting more than 45,000 participants in Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Russian Far East and the Volga-Ural region), Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Israel, North America (Greater New York, the West Coast, and Canada), Western Europe and Australia.

Attendees enjoying an interesting session at the Limmud FSU West Coast conference

Limmud FSU engages young Russian-Jewish adults, empowering them to take ownership of their identity and to connect with their communities through pluralistic, egalitarian volunteer-driven conferences of Jewish learning and culture. In this way, Limmud FSU strives to foster the next generation of young Russian-speaking Jewish leadership and so revitalize Jewish communities in the countries of the former Soviet Union, and in countries with Russian-Jewish communities, wherever they may be. Key partners include the Claims Conference, JDC, GPG, philanthropists Matthew Bronfman, Aaron Frenkel, Diane Wohl, Yuriy Zelvenskiy, the Jewish National Fund (KKL), Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Nativ, Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Jewish Agency, and others. For additional details: www.limmudfsu.org.

Edited by: JV Staff

 

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