Last week three teams of Russian rabbinical students in specially equipped trailers, commonly known as ‘mitzvah-mobiles’ throughout the Jewish world, went out on a mission to visit the country’s remote communities, reviving and invigorating Jewish life along their routes.
Their goal is to visit over 50 FJC community centers and synagogues and participate in local Jewish life, including prayer services, Shabbat celebrations, charity events and youth activities. Throughout the duration of the trip, the teams will interact with local residents, answering questions about Jewish culture and history.
A similar expedition is currently underway in the Ukraine, where rabbinical students from Kiev are visiting over 60 communities on the country’s Southern and Eastern regions, becoming a media sensation along the way.
“Such ‘expeditions’ are a vital way for the students, who are learning to become our future communities leaders, to experience life in the regions and meet people from all walks of life,” said FJC of Russia President Mr. Alexander Boroda. “Besides that, such visits are a source of excitement for smaller communities, not all of which have regular Jewish activities.”
Over the three weeks of the expedition, the Russian teams will visit Kostroma, Ivanovo, Kazan, Sochi, Ulianovsk, Kaluga, Orel, Tula, Yeletz, Belgorod, Taganrog, Lipetzk, Krasnodar, Penza, Tambov and other cities. The Ukrainian team is visiting Nikolayev, Kherson, Odessa, Kharkov, and dozens of smaller villages and towns.
The initiative is timed for the summer season ahead of the new Jewish year and High holidays coming up in September when all community centers are already busy with preparations.
“The young rabbis’ visit is extremely important for us in two aspects,” noted the Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar, “first of all, it revives Jewish activities in the most remote parts of the country, bringing the spirit of Jewish life to hundreds and thousands of Jews in those places. Secondly, by being open about their identity and practicing Judaism freely our young rabbis show that today Jews shouldn’t be ashamed – they can be proud of their heritage and together harvest new strength and a new joy from it!”