A “Make-Over” for Jewish Life in Birobidzhan Underway

FJC’s Birobidzhan Jewish community, located in the historic Jewish Autonomous region in Russia’s Siberia will soon get the first mikvah ritual bath in the region’s history. The mikvah is part of a larger construction project that promises to help Jewish life in Birobidzhan flourish.

The project, which is set to become the city’s new community center, also includes a kosher food store and a spacious second floor for all of the regional youth activities.

“Thankfully, we have a lot of youth in Birobidzhan, and we just have to have our own space, a youth club, for them,” said Eli Riss, the city’s Chief Rabbi.

Simultaneously, another building is under construction for a kosher restaurant. “We are really making a focus on food because there is a serious lack of kosher products in [Russia’s] Far East. Hopefully, soon we’ll have a greater variety of foods available – we are also developing a line of locally-produced kosher milk products – so that any Jew in the Far-East could attain kosher food if he wants to.”

Constructions are planned to be finished in September. Up until then, Birobidzhan women interested in immersing in a mikvah have traveled to the ‘neighboring’ city of Khabarovsk, 190 km away.

Birobidzhan Jewish autonomous region, which borders China, was created under Stalin’s rule in the 1930’s as a possible relocation place for all of Russia’s Jews. As of now, there are about 4,000 Jews in the area, who, however, are taking an active part in the city’s Jewish activities and revival, Mr. Riss said.

The construction is being sponsored by the FJC of Russia and two local donors, Mr. Valdman and Mr. Lubarsky.


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