Just a few decades ago, the very name ‘Siberia’ struck fear in the hearts of chassidim in Russia. But this past week, it hosted 75 shluchim who are spreading Yiddishkeit across the country proudly and openly.
By Anash.org reporter
The name ‘Siberia’ is known to most Chabad chassidim as a place of exile and hard labor, where their grandparents or a chossid of renown were sent as a punishment for spreading Yiddishkeit.
This Shabbos, Siberia was host to scenes that were radically different, in fact, the polar opposite.
Seventy-five shluchim, who are spreading Yiddishkeit proudly and openly across the entire Russia joined together in the Siberian city of Tomsk for a regional Kinus Hashluchim and Shabbos Achdus.
This is the fifth year of such a gathering, with previous kinusim being held in the cities of Ufa, Rostov, Novosibirsk, and Nizhny Novgorod, and next year’s Kinus planned to be held Russia’s European enclave of Kaliningrad.
The Kinus began on Friday morning at the large central shul, and continued in the neighboring Jewish Community Center which serves as the spiritual address for the local Jewish community. The center also serves many Jewish students who are attracted by the city’s prestigious universities.
The Governor General of Tomsk, Mr. Mazur, and the city’s Mayor Mr. Ratner, arrived at the shul on Friday to express their appreciation, on behalf of the region’s citizens, for the extensive activities of the shluchim who arrived all the way from Birobidzhan in Russia’s Far East to Kalliningrad in its west.
Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, in turn, expressed his gratitude on behalf of the region’s Jews for the help and government support provided in Tomsk and its surrounding areas.
Later in the day, there was a variety of symposiums and forums for the shluchim to discuss challenges and ideas from their shlichus, and to present new outreach tools for working with the community’s youth.
The shluchim then prepared for Shabbos, and what a special Shabbos it was! Over the 25 hours, the shluchim joined davening with the local community, shiurim and farbrengens.
Leading the shiurim and farbrengens were Rabbi Lazar, Rabbi Yitzchok Kogan of Moscow’s Bolshaya Bronnaya shul, Rabbi Alexander Boroda, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the FSU, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Pewsner, shliach to St. Petersburg, and Rabbi Zalman Deutsch, shliach Perm, the latter two who are also part of the organizing committee of the Annual Regional Kinus.
The speakers stressed the special time which the Kinus took place, in preparation for the Yom Tov of Shavuos, when the Jewish nation stood as one at the foot of Har Sinai, their unity a symbol and inspiration for generations to come. So too, they said, the unity and ahavas Yisroel amongst the many shluchim present could be felt and seen as a shining example.
Also joining the Kinus were 50 young shluchim who enjoyed an uplifting Shabbos together, giving them a much-needed boost in their role as shluchim, living in cities in which they and their families are the only frum Yidden for many miles.
A large number of local Yidden came to visit the shul and community center over Shabbos, eager to see the unusual sight of so many rabbis gathered in their city. The excitement over the Kinus didn’t pass over the local media either, and they showed up en masse to capture the sights and scenes and to interview the shluchim.
Thanks were given to the shluchim to Tomsk, Rabbi Kaminetzky and Rabbi Reuven Nekhoda, who put in so much work and effort to make the Kinus the success it was.
Photography: Valery Kasatkin