left to right: Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornyenko, Alexander Kryukov, Director of the Russian Cultural Center, Astronaut Garret Reisman, Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, Chaim Chesler, Founder of Limmud FSU, Sandra Cahn, Co-Founder and Matthew Bronfman, Chair, Limmud FSU Steering Committee.
May 25, 2011 / 21 Iyar 5771
Limmud FSU, the educational and cultural festival for Russian speakers, will take place for the first time in Beersheba, the capital of the Negev on 26-27 May, with 800 participants.
On the 24 of May took place a special reception at the Russian Cultural Center in Tel Aviv co-hosted by the Russian Rossotrudnichestvo State Agency together with Limmud FSU. The guests of honor were two Russian cosmonauts: Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space and Mikhail Kornyenko, and his partner in space, the American-Jewish astronaut Garrett Reisman. All three space pioneers will be speaking at the Beersheba Festival. This year’s Limmud FSU is devoted to the topic Space, Science and Technology, which was especially chosen to mark the 50th anniversary of the first flight in space by the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.
The ambassador of the Russian Federation, Pyotr Stegniy, opened the event at the Russian Cultural Center and greeted the audience, pointing out that this year, proclaimed by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as The Year of Cosmos, is being celebrated in Russia and around the world by the special “Space Odyssey” project. The three cosmonauts, speaking in Russian (including the American Garrett Reisman - even if with a self-confessed “New Jersey accent”) expressed their delight in being in Israel and said they had been overwhelmed by the warmth of their reception. In introducing them, Alexander Kryukov, Director of the Russian Cultural Center in Tel Aviv, said that the breakthrough in space actually heralded a breakthrough in many fields of human knowledge and understanding, and the presence of two Russian and one American astronauts, as well as the presence in the audience of Rona Ramon, widow of Israel’s own astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was evidence of the degree of international cooperation that exists today, not only in space exploration but in countless other fields.
Matthew Bronfman, Chair of the Limmud FSU International Steering Committee drew a parallel between space exploration “Space without Limits” and Limmud - “Knowledge without Limits.” Echoing his thoughts, Sopha Landver, Minister of Immigration Absorption added that Limmud FSU was incontrovertible evidence of the thirst young Russian-speaking people have for learning about their roots, culture and national identity. Rona Ramon thanked the Russian Cultural Center for inviting the Russian cosmonauts and praised Limmud FSU for bringing everyone together.
At the close of their remarks, the space pioneers were moved when Brig. Gen. Roman Yagel, President of the Israel Union of War Veterans, Partisans and Invalids of the Second World War, mounted the stage and bestowed on each of them a commemorative medal. Not to be outdone, Mordechai Kirmygarov, President of the World Union of the Jews of Central Asia presented them with silver plaques to mark their visit.
Later in the evening, the guests moved to the Herzliya residence of Limmud FSU supporters, Ruth and Menachem Oren, for a cocktail party. The glittering event was attended by Limmud FSU donors and supporters, including Minister Sofa Landver, Knesset members Zeev Elkin, Faina Kirshenbaum and Nino Abesadze, Gabriel Mirilashvili, President of the World Congress of Jews of Georgia, Dr Nona Kuchina and Moshe Shneerson from Dr Nona International, Moshe Mano (Mano Sapanut) and others. Chaim Chesler, Chair and Founder of Limmud FSU, co-Founder Sandra Cahn and Matthew Bronfman introduced the guests, who were shown a video about Limmud FSU activities world-wide, and once again cosmonaut Leonov responded and thanked the Oren Family and Limmud FSU for their hospitality.
The Beersheba Limmud FSU Festival (the fourth to take place in Israel) will take place in two venues: The Lillian and Larry Goodman Theater and Acting School of the Negev, and the Beersheba Center for the Performing Arts. Some 800 Russian speakers are expected to attend the two day Festival who will choose between a packed program of lectures, panel discussions, workshops, round-table meetings, exhibits, film showings, artistic performances, and much more, given by some 60 presenters from all over the country. Among the speakers will be Silvan Shalom, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee; Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Information and the Diaspora, Moshe Arens, past Minister of Defense; actress Helena Yaralova; journalists Eitan Haber and Yaron Deckel; Gil Hovav speaking about his great-grandfather Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the popular singer, Maria Maximilian Blumin and other performers. Special visits for participants will be made to the Ilan Ramon Center, the Air Force Museum at Hatzerim and the Old City of Beersheba.