Limmud Moldova draws 400 Jews

Cnaan Liphshiz

CHISINAU, Moldova (JTA) — Some 400 Moldovan Jews gathered for the country’s second Limmud Jewish learning conference.

Held two years after Moldova’s inaugural Limmud conference in 2012, the event in the country’s capital also drew journalists from five national-circulation newspapers and four television channels, according to Limmud FSU, which funded the event.

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“This is a unique event for Moldovan Jews because it unites a number of smaller organizations in one place,” one of the event’s volunteer co-organizers, Yulia Sheinman, told JTA.

A few thousand Jews live in Moldova, but its present-day territory once had a Jewish community of more than 300,000 when it was part of Romania before the Holocaust, according to the European Jewish Congress. Nearly all of them were deported to concentration and death camps by German and Romanian troops.

“We think about the past, but we live in the here and now,” said Elena Roitman, another volunteer. “The first Limmud conference [in Moldova] rekindled interest in Jewish life here. Then it subsided. I hope the second conference will have a cumulative effect.”

Limmud FSU’s Moldova conference is one of eight active projects funded and co-organized by Limmud FSU in the former Soviet Union and other countries with Russian-speaking Jewish communities, including the United States, Israel and Germany.

Roman Kogan, Limmud FSU’s chief operating officer, said the organization is planning to have conferences for Russian speakers in Canada, Australia and in the Los Angeles area.

The Limmud conference in Moldova is headed and co-funded by Aleksandr Bilinkis, co-chairman of the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova. The U.S. Embassy in Chisinau is also a sponsor.

“The local involvement is a principle that helps empower local communities by having them take ownership of the event, rather than introduce it as a foreign element,” said Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler.