A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Limmud FSU 2008

Swallow's Nest, as photographed by Lena

The beautiful Swallow’s Nest in Yalta, as photographed by Lena.

view-of-the-hotel

Hotel Yalta, the site of Limmud FSU 2008

For the second time in the history of the Former Soviet Union, Jews from all over the world—from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, America, Israel, Britain, and more—gathered for a three day conference all about being Jewish, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of it.

I left Sunday night, October 26, with the rest of the Dnepropetrovsk group, mostly members of JCC, Hillel, and of course, JDC. Our train arrived the next morning at Sinferopl, the hub of Crimean transportation, located right in the heart of the peninsula. From there we boarded the Limmud bus to Yalta, located an hour and a half to the south, where the mountains meet the sea. Such beauty is rarely to be seen! Proud mountains flaunting their autumn colors, shining sea, beautiful weather, and powerful skies—whether a crystal clear blue or a rolling gray fortress.


Our hotel, located in a quiet mountain forest, five minutes walk from the sea and twenty minutes walk from the city center, was where all the action was. Each of the two-hundred-something lectures was given in one of the hotel’s conference rooms. From 10 in the morning until 10 at night, with a break in the middle for lunch and dinner, each hour offered five choices of seminars relating to Judaism, ranging from a comparison of Ashkenazi and Sephardi music to a forum on Jewish journalism and its representation of Soviet Jewry to the roles of men and women in the Bible. The lecturers, like the guests, came from all over the world to share their expertise with over 1,000 other Jews.


The evenings were jam-packed with activities, as well. Every night at 10 pm there was a concert in the main hall (dubbed the “Jerusalem” room), featuring local talent, the Taglit performers, and Neshama Carlebach from New York. After the concerts ended, from midnight until 2 am, the first rows of chairs were cleared out and there was an extended Israeli dance session. If your course was bent on a quieter evening, away from the concerts and the crowds, every night there was a film screening, as well as some alternate activity, usually a game. The last night of Limmud a Kharkov-based group gave a concert, an Odessa-based theater troupe performed a musical, and then the bolshoy kontzert commenced.


The event was an enormous success, with something for everyone. Many took day excursions to the city center, the Botanical Gardens, the Varontzovski Palace, or the great mountain, Ai-Petri. Others made sure they attended as many lectures as they possibly could. Still more circulated the break areas, where coffee and tea were served, networking and meeting other Jews. Everyone I spoke to had a marvelous time, and everyone felt a great sense of togetherness pride to have participated in such a conference.

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