Despite rising emigration, 2,000 Russian Jews to attend Limmud Moscow

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — More than 2,000 Muscovite Jews, including a chief rabbi of Russia, signed up to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Limmud FSU — a group that organizes Jewish learning conferences for Russian-speakers.

The 2,000-plus participants — a record-setting attendance which makes Limmud Moscow the world’s second largest event of its kind, after Britain’s Limmud  — will celebrate the anniversary at a four-day conference in Moscow, where Limmud FSU 10 years ago had its inaugural event, Limmud FSU co-founder Chaim Chesler said Wednesday.

The keynote address Thursday will be delivered by Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, whose last appearance at a Limmud Moscow event was in 2007, Chesler said. He added the event was sold out two months in advance “because we were limited in our own capacity.”

Sandy Cahn, another co-founder of Limmud FSU, said this attendance “is the best evidence that Jewish life is thriving in Russia.” Attendance last year at Limmud Moscow stood at fewer than 1,500 participants.

The event comes amid a dramatic increase in Russia in Jewish immigration to Israel, or aliyah, that Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky attributed to a financial crisis that last year halved the ruble’s value against the dollar, and to lingering concerns among Russian Jews over rising nationalism and undemocratic practices. Russia provided Israel with 6,700 newcomers last year — a 32-percent rise over 2014, which was the most dramatic increase in aliyah recorded anywhere last year. Most immigrants came from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other major cities with highly-educated Jewish communities, Sharansky said.

The Limmud model began in Britain in 1976 for and by Jewish educators and has since been adapted by Jewish communities worldwide. It features a wealth of parallel-track lectures and activities whose only common theme is Yiddishkeit, allowing participants ample choice. Some 2,600 participants attend Britain’s main Limmud conference annually, organizers said.

The Moscow conference this week will feature talks by the Russian-American political commentator Vladimir Pozner, the Russian human rights activist Irina Yasina and by Solomon Perel, a Jew who survived the Holocaust as a child by assuming the identity of an Aryan German boy, and attended Hitler Youth activities.

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