There are an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 Jews in Venezuela – out of a total population of 29 million – down from 20,000 in 1999. Many have emigrated to Israel, Miami and Spain, as a result of ongoing political, economic and personal security challenges.
“Despite many problems, we are more active than ever,” Jaroslavsky emphasized. “We have to take care of the spiritual health of the people in our very special community. Limmud feeds the soul of the members of Venezuelan communities.”
One of the attendees, Lilit Monis, 75, from Caracas, believes that despite its challenges, the community is there to stay, and events such as the one held over the weekend are important in bringing the community together and keeping it strong.
“Our political situation is very bad and we really need this kind of event to get us out of our routine and make us think of other good things,” she told The Jerusalem Post in a phone call.
“I’m just amazed to see how beautiful and organized it is and I can’t believe that they have put on such a great event in such a short time,” Monis said enthusiastically. “It’s incredible, the environment and everyone is so happy and the speakers are very interesting.”
Joanna Lustgarten, 15, from Caracas, said she found the event illuminating with regard to other Jewish communities around the world. “The talks make you realize the impact of Jewish communities around the world,” she told the Post.
Joanna volunteers with Maccabi Hatzair and used the event to raise money via a raffle and a sale for month-long visits to Israel that are organized by the youth movement.
The 25-member Limmud Caracas steering committee and 80 volunteers offered more than 30 sessions at the event on topics that included, among others, Israel, tzedaka (charity), Israeli film, cooking, art and Yiddish. Leading Venezuelan comedian Laureano Marquez also performed.
Limmud has spread to communities across Latin America with the support of its partner, the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee. Since the first Limmud conference was held in Buenos Aires 10 years ago, Limmud communities have developed in Mar del Plata, Argentina; Bogota, Colombia; Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.
“We heard about Limmud Buenos Aires, Peru, Miami and we wanted to bring it here,” Limmud Caracas spokeswoman Anita Katz said. “Limmud adds new light and hope to our community. Today was marked by happiness and a different way for each participant to experience belonging to a people. It has been deeply meaningful.”
The youngest participant at the event was one year of age and the oldest was 90.
Founded in the UK in 1980, Limmud aims to enable participants to deepen their connection to their Jewish identity– regardless of age, gender, level of Jewish knowledge or commitment to Jewish life. There are now Limmud chapters in more than 80 communities in some 40-plus countries, all offering Jewish learning and cultural events organized by local volunteers.
“Limmud is proud of our volunteers and partners in Venezuela and across Latin America for launching our newest Limmud community,” Limmud CEO Eli Ovits said. “This sends a positive message of solidarity and investment in Jewish life at a challenging time. Limmud stands with the Jews and people of Venezuela – working together to strengthen Jewish leadership and create learning opportunities for all."
picture credit: LIMMUD