The pluralistic program included dozens of sessions on a wide range of topics with a multiple selection of activities each hour

NEW YORK, NY, June 18, 2019 /24-7PressRelease/ — Several hundred participants took part today in the annual Limmud FSU in New York, taking place at UJA Federation of NY. The pluralistic program, arranged by Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union), included dozens of sessions on a wide range of topics with a multiple selection of activities each hour.

Among the noted speakers: Canadian author and filmmaker David Bezmozgis; prominent American historian Deborah Lipstadt; co -founder of Limmud FSU Sandra Cahn, a popular Australian broadcast and TV personality Rabbi Mordechai Becher; Writer and teacher Rachel Sharansky Danziger; Writer, literary critic, and radio broadcaster Alexander Genis; The Operations Officer in an Israeli special commando unit under the command of Yoni Netanyahu Rami Sherman and many more.

Among the presenters at the conference was Hadas Kalderon, the noted Israeli actress and granddaughter of Abraham Sutzkever, the acclaimed Yiddish poet and Israel Prize laureate. She is co-author and producer (together with Uri Barbash and Yair Qedar) of the film “Black Honey – The Life and Poetry of Avraham Sutzkever,” a documentary made in 2018 on the life of her grandfather, the film won the award as best documentary film on the Jewish experience at the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2018 and has been shown at cinematheques and other venues across Israel.

Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU said, “It was my good fortune, that I saw by chance, a screening of “Black Honey” on the life of the greatest Yiddish poet of our generation, Avraham Sutzkever, I immediately decided that the film had to be shown at Limmud FSU– first in Belarus where the poet was born and from where he gained his literary inspiration, and now in New York.”

Avid Israeli film and theatregoers in Israel will be familiar with the name Hadas Kalderon. For 15 years, a member of the Tel Aviv based Bet Lessin Theater company, she has appeared in such notable stage plays as Hagar, Mikveh, Love at Third Glance, Dolphins, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Rainmaker, as well as a long list of successful television series and films, including Stockholm, When Heroes Fly, Amalia Brown, The Naked Truth and a host of others.

And yet, despite her terpsichorean life, the 43-year-old actress-cum-writer-cum-playwright, has devoted many years to developing a symbiotic relationship with her grandfather, the acclaimed poet, Avraham Sutzkever. Acclaimed yes, but to some extent a prophet without honor except in his own household. The problem was that Sutzkever wrote in Yiddish. Some noted experts, including Prof. Dan Meron and Prof. Ruth Wisse have stated unequivocally that he may have been the greatest Yiddish poet who ever lived and the New York Times dubbed him as “the greatest poet of the Holocaust.”

But Sutzkever came to Israel at a time when Yiddish was rejected by many, even including Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, as an unwelcome reminder of the pogroms, of oppression and the European Holocaust of just a few years earlier, and which were very much still a part of the daily living memory of the young state. The early Zionist pioneers referred to it as shlilat hagalut – “Negation of the Exile.” The great poets of Eretz Israel – Chaim Nahman Bialik, Shaul Tchernikhovsky, Avraham Shlonsky, Nathan Alterman, Leah Goldberg and others – wrote in Hebrew although the roots of them all were in Yiddish-speaking Eastern Europe. Riding in a bus, a couple talking in Yiddish (or any other language for that matter) to each other, might well have had someone tapping on their shoulder and saying in a tone of admonishment, Ivri, daber Ivrit – “Jew – speak Hebrew!”

Sutzkever was not religious in any orthodox sense of the word. Prof. Ruth Wisse maintains that, “one of the things that Sutzkever did was to experience poetry as sanctity. He experienced religion through the possibility of creating poetry, so that when he came into the ghetto, he continued to hold to that higher standard and what gave him the independence was that the Germans could destroy almost everything, but nobody could destroy good poetry.” The fact is that Sutzkever wrote a poem every single day in the ghetto. He always maintained that it was due to that, that he survived.

In 1949, Sutzkever founded the magazine Di Goldene Keyt (“The Golden Chain,”) funded by the Histadrut federation of trades unions, and which became the most prominent journal of Yiddish literature and culture in the world and was published until 1995. Subsequently, his poems have been translated into many languages. He said, “They will not uproot my tongue: I shall wake up the generations with my roaring.”

Belatedly, he was awarded the Israel Prize in 1985, when there was a greater appreciation of the Yiddish language and its culture and the anti-Yiddish atmosphere had started to dissipate, and it is even again taught in universities. Nevertheless, Sutzkever never really entered the pantheon of Israeli writers. His vehicle of choice, Yiddish, together with its cultural, literary and secular milieu, had, to a large extent, been obliterated. The language survives, of course, among Ashkenazi Haredi circles where it has a totally different context and connotation. Freydke died in 2003, and Avraham Sutzkever at the age of 97, in 2010 and they are buried in Tel Aviv.

Hadas Kalderon sees an important part of her life’s mission in commemorating her grandfather and the loss of his Yiddish culture. “Whenever I return to Europe, I try and find remnants of that Jewish life in local antique shops. On one such trip in Prague, I was offered a yellow star for 200 dollars. When I got home I told Abrasheh the story.” “Really,” he replied. “Interesting; I got mine for free.”

Supporters of Limmud FSU in New York included UJA – Jewish Federation of NY, Genesis Philanthropy Group, World Zionist Organisation, Jonathan Leader, Mark Tsesarsky, Claims Conference, Tom Blumberg and others. In the best tradition of Limmud FSU, the event was made possible by its team of local leaders and volunteers led by Limmud FSU Executive Director Roman Kogan and Project Manager Noam Shumakh – Khaimov, co-chairs Alina Bitel and Roman Sidler, as well as Yuliya Mazur, Inna Penek, Nina Faynberg and many others.


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