While the world of high tech took notice of Facebook’s recent multi-billion-dollar acquisition of WhatsApp, a smaller portion of that technology community took a special interest. For Russian Jews the WhatsApp deal was another example of how their people — WhatsApp’s Jan Koum, in this case — have thrived as high tech innovators.
Other high profile examples: Google’s Sergey Brin and PayPal’s Max Levchin.
More than 800 young Russian-American Jews from across the country, part of a group called Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union), will explore this new wave of high-tech leaders and their impact on the world of technology at the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel on Friday through Sunday, March 28 through 30. Limmud FSU is a festival of Jewish learning featuring lectures, workshops, round-table discussions, music, and a wide-range of cultural events in three languages — Russian, English, and Hebrew. This year’s focus is on “what makes Russian-American Jews successful high-tech innovators.” For information visit www.limmudfsuus.org.
There are an estimated 750,000 to 1 million Russian-American Jews in the U.S., with about half in New Jersey and New York. The Limmud educational movement began in Britain more than 30 years ago. Limmud FSU was founded eight years ago. “Limmud FSU has been successfully bringing together nearly 1,000 Russian-speaking Jews, who are often described as marginally engaged in Jewish life, for a weekend of Jewish learning and culture for the last five years,” said Alina Bitel, chair of the Limmud FSU USA, in a press release announcing the event. “Russian-speaking Jewish activists debunk the persistent myth of lack of interest in Jewish education and work tirelessly to create a conference for their peers with the understanding of this group’s unique cultural interests and intellectual approach.”
Among the presenters at the conference are leading academics, politicians, writers, and artists from the U.S., Israel, Russia and elsewhere. Evgeny Korchnoy, director of the Leumi Robotics Center for fostering robotics education at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, will discuss robotics as a career path.
Eli Itin, described as an “Innovation Evangelist” at Amdocs, will participate in a session that examines innovation and the elements required for the creation of a national and corporate culture of innovation, and why Israel has become the “Start-up Nation” and what challenges are faced by its high-tech industry if it is to maintain this position.
Other presenters include Israeli author Lihi Lapid, Knesset members Ronen Hoffman and Omar Bar Lev, IFCJ president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, philanthropist Feliks Frenkel, Professor Adam Shwartz, director of Technion – Cornell Innovation Institute, and others.
“Limmud FSU has revolutionized pluralistic Jewish engagement of Russian-speaking Jews and is making a great impact in strengthening Jewish identity through an educational experience of Jewish history and culture,” said Matthew Bronfman, chairman of the International Steering Committee of Limmud FSU, who will deliver a session at Limmud. “This initiative helps to strengthen Jewish communal life among Russian-American Jews by inspiring participants to be more active in their communities through volunteering.”