Saturday night, two organizations committed to strengthening Jewish identity and connection to Israel, announced a new global and long-term partnership. Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (the Fellowship) are joining together in order to enhance and develop the activities of Limmud FSU and expand the organization worldwide, according to a joint release.
Limmud FSU is a nonprofit founded eight years ago by Chaim Chesler, former treasurer of the Jewish Agency; Sandra Cahn, philanthropist from New York; and Professor Michael Chlenov of Moscow, to serve young Russian-speaking Jews around the world. The organization operates in seven countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, USA, Canada and Israel. Key partners include the JDC, philanthropist Matthew Bronfman, Aaron Frankel, Diane Wohl, UJA-Federation of New York, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, Ministry of Education, the Jewish Agency and others.
The Fellowship was founded in 1983 by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein to promote understanding between Jews and Christians and build broad support for Israel and other shared concerns
As part of the new collaboration, the Fellowship will be a key partner in Limmud FSU, and will provide funding that will allow the project to hold conferences around the world, among other activities, and engage more participants, most of whom are young Russian-speaking Jews.
President of the Fellowship Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein will join Limmud FSU’s leadership as dean and member of the executive committee, alongside Matthew Bronfman, chairman of the International Steering Committee, and Aaron Frenkel, Limmud FSU president.
Bronfman and Rabbi Eckstein made the official announcement during the Limmud FSU conference which is currently taking place in Parsippany, N.J.
The conference is the largest gathering of Russian-speaking Jews in North America, attracting over 800 young participants from the U.S. and Canada. There are an estimated 750,000 to 1 million Russian-American Jews in the U.S., half of whom are living in New York and New Jersey. The entire conference is organized by young volunteer participants from the Russian-Jewish community.
Within the framework of the new partnership agreement, which was signed for an initial three years, Limmud FSU has already begun to build an infrastructure for activities among Russian-speaking communities in Australia and the West Coast of the United States.
The first Limmud FSU conferences will take place in those locations in 2015. The new partnership will also allow the organizations to hold eight conferences over the course of 2014 (an increase of 25% over last year), including the first Canadian conference, to be held this October in Toronto.
Limmud FSU was established, the release explains, to offer young Russian Jews around the world a unique and independent community, an educational and cultural framework that helps strengthen Jewish identity and connection to Israel, deepen involvement in Jewish communal life, and empower activists to build the next generation of Russian-speaking Jewish leadership in the Diaspora and in Israel.
Limmud FSU has revolutionized pluralistic Jewish engagement of Russian-speaking Jews, who are often described as marginally engaged in Jewish life, and is making a great impact in strengthening Jewish identity through a unique educational experience of Jewish history and culture.
The organization seeks to renew the tradition of Jewish learning with conferences and festivals of Jewish and Israeli study, arranged and produced by volunteers. All conferences and festivals offer diverse and multi-disciplinary programs including lectures, workshops, master classes, musical performances and cultural events in three languages: Russian, English and Hebrew.
“We are proud of the new strategic partnership with the Fellowship, and hope that it will allow us to grow and expand our important activities among Russian-speaking Jewish communities around the world,” said Matthew Bronfman, of Limmud FSU.