Partying hard at Limmud Odessa
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Partying hard at Limmud Odessa

If Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler disapproves of the hard partying, then he is hiding it well. “Take a look around, habibi,” says the Israel-born former Jewish Agency boss. “Not a good time to be married, huh? Tonight these guys will be partying so hard they’ll bring down the roof!”

Boruch Gorin, a Limmud Odessa presenter and influential Chabad rabbi from Moscow, isn’t shocked either. “I think it’s terrific that so many young people are coming here. It shows the resilience of the Jewish people that even after decades of Communist repression such an event has an enormous pull on the very people who will take Jewish life into the future in this part of the world,” says Gorin, who is the editor-in-chief of the L’chaim Jewish monthly.

Elsewhere in Europe, Limmud has been kept at arm’s length by the rabbinical establishment. Britain’s former chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, stayed away from the gathering during his 22 years in office — an absence that many connect to a rabbinical court ruling in London that Orthodox rabbis should stay away from the pluralistic event. His replacement, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, only this year announced he would attend.

“But FSU communities aren’t nearly as compartmentalized as the British Jewish community, where the Orthodox and seculars live in separate worlds,” Gorin says. “We are all members of the same milieu, same group, with the same celebrities and shared interests, despite all the differences — and this is a source of strength and pride for us.”