Every day we meet people who have traveled a journey – a journey through time, space, political regimes, and often unique careers. We interact with these people and learn things about their pasts and the generations that led to the realities we see today. More often than not the stories are different and the journeys rarely seem to connect to one another. In contrast, when I attended my first ever Limmud FSU conference in Toronto, it was incredible to see how so many experiences intertwined and how every story could be shared and followed deeply with one another. Of course, there were small differences in the technicalities and the timing of events, but the rooted connections that were shared and celebrated were evident. Participants were proud of their Soviet Jewish heritage and of how it shaped them. And so, Limmudniki of all ages, genders, and Jewish streams gathered at a conference to socialize and attend educational workshops. The adults attended their own programs while volunteers, like myself, facilitated early youth education. My co-facilitator and I – both having been counselors at a Russian-speaking Jewish camp called J. Academy – used our background and experience to create programs designed to engage children in the exploration and discovery of their Soviet-Jewish culture in a fun, modern, and interactive way. Activities ranged from healthy cooking and theater workshops to university and career panel discussions tailored for teens and young adults. Soon after, I was flying out with a few other Canadians to volunteer with Limmud FSU in New York! I entered the venue of the conference wavering between excitement and fear of the social and cultural differences that might exist between busy New Yorkers and polite Torontonians. Finding myself surrounded by the unfamiliarity of hundreds of strangers standing at the welcome desk, hungry and exhausted from the long trip, certainly did not seem to help settle my emotions. However, 72 hours later I stood in that same lobby saying farewell to the hundreds of strangers who I now consider my friends and family. I was astonished by the personal connections that Limmud helped me form in that short span of time. There is an evident bond which ties the Russian-speaking Jewish people together from all over the world. Whether it’s in New York or Toronto, the alikeness of our individual journeys forms an inevitable kinship.
Ilana Golzman, Limmud FSU Canada children’s program facilitator