YOUNG JEWS IN THE FSU HAVE DEVELOPED A DUAL IDENTITY, BALANCING JEWISH CULTURE AND NATIONAL PRIDE

More than 1,000 young Russian Jews came together in Moscow this weekend for the ninth Limmud FSU Moscow conference, which unveiled new findings about this generation of post-Soviet Jews.

This is the ninth Limmud FSU Moscow conference, organized entirely by a local team of volunteers in what is the biggest Jewish community in the FSU. Limmud FSU conferences are also considered to be among the leading Jewish cultural events in the FSU, and provide a festival of Jewish learning featuring lectures, workshops, round-table discussions, music and a wide-range of cultural events in Russian, English and Hebrew. Most of the participants came from the Russian Federation.
Professor Vladimir (Ze’ev) Khanin, chief scientist for the Israeli Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and Senior Lecturer in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University, presented for the first time the findings of his new book, “A Generation of Desert? Contemporary FSU Jewish Youth: Ethnicity, Religion and the Nation,” at the conference, which is considered the largest Jewish gathering in the former Soviet Union.

Khanin sees young Jews in the FSU as the first post-Soviet generation. Young Jews in the FSU have developed a dual identity, based on Jewish culture as well as national pride about their home country, he said. The professor said Jewish identity of both younger and older Jews revolves around three core values: Jewish ethnic and cultural traditions; the memory of the Holocaust; and solidarity with the State of Israel.

This new Jewish identity is emerging largely through Jewish schools or community activities, though the role of religion is also growing, Khanin said. Since young people tend to introduce socio-cultural innovations, we could witness a “third generation” phenomenon in the coming decades, in which the offspring of interfaith marriages will rediscover the Eastern-European Jewish roots of their parents and grandparents, he added.

Khanin’s findings are based on two studies conducted in Russia in 2008 and 2010-2011.

Limmud FSU Moscow featured more than 180 sessions on topics such as Judaism, Jewish culture in all its forms, tradition, innovation, communication, yoga and arts and much more. Among the top speakers were Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein (who spoke about the strategic relations between Jews, Christians and the state of Israel and lead a Havdalah ceremony); Israeli Ambassador to Russia Dorit Golender; Musician Yonatan Razel; Prof. Raphael Walden, Dr. Tsvia Walden of Ben Gurion University; Prof. Aviad Hacohen; Shachar Weiser, founder of GetTaxi; refusenik and former Prisoner of Zion Yoseph Mendelevich; Prof. Yevgeny Satanovsky, President of the Institute for the Middle East Studies in Russia; Holocaust historian, Prof. Ilya Altman; cinema director Alexander Mitta; Russian Jewish Congress President Yuri Kanner and many others. The program also included special activities for young “Limmudniks” between the ages of three to 12, as many participants attended with their children.

Another special feature of this year’s Limmud FSU Moscow was an exhibition about the history of the JDC (Joint) in Russia – dedicated to the 100th anniversary of JDC, one of Limmud FSU’s major partners.  

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