100 Russian Rabbis Gather Where Nazis Once Reigned

Eighty-six years after the Nazis set the Great Synagogue of Kaliningrad ablaze, 100 Russian rabbis and Chabad emissaries gathered in the Russian enclave between Lithuania and Poland for a weekend of unity and inspiration.

One hundred rabbis from across Russia gathered for an uplifting Shabbat weekend in the historic city of Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave situated between Lithuania and Poland.

Eighty-six years ago, the Nazis shattered the windows of the Great Synagogue of Kaliningrad and set the magnificent building ablaze. This weekend, the city witnessed the ultimate victory over the murderers in a scene of Jewish pride the likes of which the city’s Jews have not witnessed in a long time.

The arrival of about 100 city rabbis from across Russia brought a festive atmosphere to all the residents of Kaliningrad, also known by its German name Konigsberg. The city is situated in the heart of Europe, forming a large Russian enclave alongside Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus, on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Rivers flow through the large city and surround the many towns and villages scattered throughout the region, home to over a million residents, serving as one of the largest and foremost tourist attractions in Russia.

The weekend-long gathering kicked off with the inauguration of a new mikvah complex, located in the basement of the recently restored synagogue’s building. The synagogue was restored in cooperation with the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia and philanthropist Mr. Vladimir Katzman, who also took it upon himself to build one of the mikvahs, the construction of which was completed a week ago.

The keynote address was delivered by the Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar, who urged all local Jews and Jewish tourists from across Russia to frequent the synagogue, participate in Judaism classes, and participate in the many activities hosted in the synagogue for all ages.

At the moving event, attended by many community members, supporters, and important friends, Kaliningrad Chabad emissary Rabbi Avraham Boruch Deutsch described the process of building the mikvah accompanied by the Chief Rabbi and the Secretary of the Chief Rabbinate of Russia, Rabbi Zalman Shmuel Deren.

Rabbi Deutsch expressed the community’s gratitude to the philanthropists Mr. Katzman, Mr. David Aminov, Rabbi Yehudah Davidov, Mr. Dan Chernik, the Kollel Iyun Halacha in the Ganei Geula neighborhood of Yerushalayim, headed by its Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Eliezer Eichenshtein, the Rabbinical Center of Europe, and many other individuals and friends who contributed their funds towards the noble goal of bringing a mikvah back to Kaliningrad after nearly a century since the last mikvah was destroyed.

Next to offer remarks was the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, Rabbi Alexander Boroda, whose efforts have been instrumental in the revival of the Kaliningrad community and in providing immense assistance to communities across Russia. Rabbi Deutsch next honored the city’s Rabbi, Rabbi David Shvedik, and Mr. Katzman to deliver remarks and cut the ribbon. The crowd was then invited to join as the mezuzah was affixed to the main entrance by the Chief Rabbi. Following, they toured the interior of the mikvah, standing in awe of the facility’s beauty, spaciousness, and meticulous adherence to halachic standards.

Following the dedication, a festive meal was held on the second floor of the synagogue, during which community leaders and members rose one by one to express their appreciation. They took special note of the community’s growth since the arrival of the Chabad emissaries who opened a Jewish kindergarten and developed the Jewish community anew, building upon the foundations laid by Rabbi Shvedik. Gratitude was also extended to philanthropist Mr. Levi Leviev and to Rabbi David Mondshine, whose FJC ‘Or Avner’ foundation provides the community with ample resources for Jewish education.

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