I’ve just met my hotel neighbour by the lifts. He took a chance and addressed me in Russian, which is a safe bet as over 600 Russian speaking Jews have congregated in Vienna for the Limmud FSU Europe 2020 conference!

The first question people keeping asking is: “Where are you from?” – the shock and disbelief on their faces when I say “Australia” has been very amusing! “You came from Australia for Limmud? Surely not all this way for 3 days?” They can’t believe it took 27 hours to get me here! My neighbour, who travelled from Budapest, almost apologetically he tells me that it was only a two-hour drive for him.

So, wow, what an incredible experience! An intense mix of culture, learning, socialising, eating, singing, dancing and comedy. The 3-day program is jam-packed with sessions on a huge variety of fascinating topics. From Kafka to Bialik,  fake news to crowd-sourcing. From masterclasses in photography, to learning about Eliezer Ben Yehuda from his own great-grandson. To say there was something for everyone is an understatement! With so much on offer, the biggest challenge was deciding which sessions to attend.

A sumptuous Shabbat dinner and a generous spread for every other meal (and in between) means that we’re never too hungry to go and learn.

It’s been a pleasure to meet so many people from different places: Israel, Russia, Latvia, USA, Hungary, UK, Ukraine, and many more. To see them all come together to share and learn from each other, debate, analyse, and ponder – was a quintessentially ‘Limmud’ experience.

I loved seeing the dedication and grace with which the organising committee and volunteers tirelessly managed this mammoth event. They always had a smile and a can-do attitude.

The gala concert on Saturday night was another highlight. The importance of the Limmud FSU project was stressed in the dignitaries’ speeches. We heard from Mr Peter Florianschütz, Member of the Vienna City Council and Provincial Parliament. We also heard from Chaim Chesler , CEO and Founder of Limmud FSU, and many others. The musical performances were magical, and had everyone singing and dancing well into the night!

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience this incredible gathering which was totally worth the 27-hour commute!