Despite lacking any known Jewish history, the Jewish community in Novokuznetzk, Siberia has experienced tremendous growth in the last few years, leading a Moscow family to sponsor a new Sefer Torah for the community.
Unlike other big or small cities in Russia’s vast borders, the city of Novokuznetzk in Siberia does not have any known Jewish history. Jews began settling there only in the last decade or so, and of the city population of over a million, there are a few thousand Jews.
It is the oldest and largest city in the district of Kemerovo, located on the banks of the Tom River, and has one of the largest coal and steel mines in the world. Being that a lot of Jews are employed in the district’s many factories, Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar appointed Rabbi Menachem Rabinowitz as the city’s Rabbi, joining the large family of Chabad shluchim throughout Russia.
Upon his arrival several years ago, he immediately began locating Jewish families and inviting them to the extensive Jewish activities in the city, which include prayers, Torah classes, children and youth programs, and a project to help and provide relief for the needy.
And so, in a short time, a new and beautiful community was established. Along with its expansion, the need for a Torah scroll of their own became evident. This was very soon resolved, at the initiative or Rabbi Lazar, who turned to philanthropist Mr. Gavriel Tor, who so generously sponsored the Torah scroll in his father’s memory, as well as for the success of his entire family.
The last letters were written into the Torah scroll in an emotional and impressive ceremony at the legendary “Marina Roscha” shul in the center of Moscow.
Present were the sponsor and his family, the sponsor’s friend Rabbi Yaakov Pichkhadze of St. Petersburg, and the Rabbi of Novokuznetzk Menachem Rabinowitz who flew in especially for the occasion. After hakafos and lively dancing, there was a chassidishe farbrengen. Upon its completion, Rabbi Rabinowitz flew back to his city, with the new Torah scroll in his arms. It was carried with great joy and celebration into the city’s synagogue of Novokuznetzk.