(JTA) — About 400 people attended Australia’s first Limmud conference tailored especially for Russian-speaking Jews.
The events held last week in Sydney and near Melbourne were organized by the local branch of Limmud FSU, a network of groups that uses the concept of Limmud conferences to connect communities of Russian-speaking Jews on four continents.
Chaim Chesler, a former Jewish Agency executive who founded Limmud FSU in 2006, told JTA that the event in Sydney “reflects a determination to leave no stone unturned in the endeavor to connect Jews from the former Soviet Union to Judaism, Israel and the Jewish agenda wherever they live. Where they can be found, we will follow.”
Since its establishment in countries that used to belong to the USSR, Limmud FSU has branched out to other countries containing large concentrations of Jews from the former Soviet Union, including the United States, Israel, Germany and Canada. Australia has approximately 20,000 Jews who meet that description, according to Chesler.
The two conferences featured a total of 45 presenters from Australia itself and beyond, including the jazz virtuoso Leon Ptashka from Israel, and Gil Hovav, the celebrity Israeli chef who last year was guest of honor at Limmud FSU’s conference in Belarus – the birthplace of Hovav’s grandfather and the innovator of the Hebrew language, Eliezer Ben Yehuda.
Noting he was proud to host Limmud FSU’s first Australia event, David Southwick, a lawmaker from the parliament of the Australian state of Victoria, said at a Melbourne gala that the event will “enrich the local Jewish community and strengthen its ties with Israel.”
Rob Weiser, president of the Zionist Federation of New South Wales, said his organization was “looking forward to hosting the next Limmud FSU festival in Sydney” next year.