Spacing out was encouraged at this year’s Limmud FSU, an annual cultural and education festival for Russian speakers in Israel. That’s because the history-making guest speaker was Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space when he exited the Voshod 2 ship for 12 minutes in 1965.
According to eJewishPhilanthropy, Leonov’s visit to the Beersheva conference — which had a science and technology theme — was also intended to mark the 50th anniversary of the first flight in space by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Leonov, himself twice named “Hero of the Soviet Union” back in the day, was joined by cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko and American-Jewish astronaut Dr. Garrett Reisman, eJewishPhilanthropy reported. “The spirit of friendship between them was evident in all their joint presentations as they swapped jokes, mostly in Russian.”
Perhaps with fewer punchlines, the space pioneers met with Israeli President Shimon Peres the following day; at the hour-long meeting, Peres said that the Russians’ contributions to space travel will lead to a breakthrough to Venus and Mars, eJewishPhilanthropy reported. “At the same time we must ensure there is a similar breakthrough in the development of the Negev. Advances on the ground and in the air will lead to an improvement in the life of mankind,” Peres reportedly told them.
Along with the space cadets, Limmud offered 63 presentations focused on Jewish culture, Jewish education and Jewish knowledge, all taking place simultaneously in a “24-hour marathon” at the Lillian and Larry Goodman Theater and Acting School of the Negev, eJewishPhilanthropy said. “We see more and more Russian Israelis interested in learning about their Jewish heritage. Taken together, all these elements complement each other,” Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chelser told the philanthropy web site.