April 12, 2024

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The Flourishing Jewish Communities of Kazakhstan | Gil Smolinski

My Particular Connection with Jews in Kazakhstan

The Jewish record of Kazakhstan is a extensive and relatively unhappy one—many ended up there soon after fleeing from European and Russian persecution. Today, even so, the small Jewish communities of Kazakhstan are thriving, with day colleges, local community centers, and synagogues.

I’ve lengthy had an fascination in the Jewish communities of Kazakhstan and have created a near romantic relationship with Rabbi Shmuel Karnoach, a Chabad emissary residing in Astana, the country’s capital (a short while ago renamed Nur-Sultan). I’ve been involved with the Chabad property there and have manufactured contributions toward combating assimilation, masking the costs of kosher food and medication, and arranging transportation for global Jewish guests.

Historical past

Not much is identified about the very first Jews who arrived to Kazakhstan. Early stories date again to the 17th century, when several Ashkenazi Jews found their way there from Russia. Some others from the Pale of Settlement have been exiled by Joseph Stalin for practicing Judaism. The Jews who lived in Kazakhstan did not develop synagogues or maintain public products and services. They kept a low profile and held prayer providers in people’s residences.

Through World War II, close to 8,500 Jews fled the fires of Europe and settled in the safety of Kazakhstan. They built communities there, though these steadily declined in between 1959 and 1989. The next 15 yrs noticed these communities dwindle even more owing to significant Jewish emigration to Israel soon after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Hanukkah in Nur Sultan (Astana)

Jews in Kazakhstan Nowadays

Nowadays, there are many thousand Jews living in the region. Most share a lot of customs related to all those of their Russian neighbors and also converse the similar language. Some others are Bukharian or Juhuro Mountain Jews. In addition, there are about 50 Persian-Jewish households who get in touch with themselves Lakhloukh and communicate Aramaic.

While I have a close relationship with the Jews of Astana, the greatest Jewish local community in Kazakhstan is in the town of Almaty. There is a Chabad synagogue there named after Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, an influential Rabbi and the father of the famed Lubavitcher Rebbe, who is buried in the city’s cemetery. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak had been exiled to Kazakhstan from the Ukraine, and many Chabad Jews appear to pray at his grave. There are other tiny communities of Jews in Karaganda, Chimkent, Semiplatinsk, Kokchetav, Dzhambul, Uralsk, Aktyubinsk, and Petropavlovsk.

For a comparatively little Jewish populace, there are 20 Jewish corporations, which include the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Chabad Lubavitch. In overall, there are 14 Jewish working day schools attended by additional than 700 students. The main Rabbi of Kazakhstan is Rabbi Yeshaya Elazar HaCohen who is also the chair for the Eurasian Rabbinate Council. The capital metropolis of Nur-Sultan (Astana) has its have Rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Karnoach, who is deeply involved with Chabad and Jewish lifetime in the city.

The Jewish Company sponsors youth facilities in quite a few towns where by Jewish teenagers can discover about their lifestyle, historical past, and Hebrew. Chabad operates synagogues, group centers, and educational institutions in addition to packages for food items distribution, aged care, and a children’s summertime camp.

Chabad Kazakhstan

Anti-Semitism and Israel Relations

Anti-Semitism in Kazakhstan is uncommon and contained, many thanks to the state’s religious tolerance, relationship back to the Ottoman empire. Through background, Kazakhstan’s tolerance in the direction of a variety of religions and cultures has designed the Jewish group prosper.  The Jewish group in Kazakhstan enjoys support and freedom of religion. Judaism is shown by the Kazakh federal government as a person of the “traditional” religions and thus gets government safety. In point, it is in the government’s ideal interest to cultivate a great relationship with Jewish communities, equally to boost trade and to enhance Kazakhstan’s global impression.

Kazakhstan’s relationship with Israel is helpful and cooperative. In 2015, Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Agricultural Ministry inaugurated a project to support Kazakhstan produce its irrigation methods. Federal government reps from each nations attended the opening ceremony, which took put in Almaty. In 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Kazakhstan and satisfied with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Jews in Kazakhstan in the Age of COVID-19

Due to the fact the slide of the Soviet Union, the Jewish populace of Kazakhstan has been dwindling because of to emigration to Israel. However, the Jews that reside there even now feel a powerful sense of group and cohesion. Throughout COVID-19, Rabbi Yeshaya Elazar HaCohen, Kazakhstan’s main rabbi, and other religious leaders called for preventative actions, to which the community adhered. Leaders used social media to arrange volunteer assistance for the community’s susceptible customers. Religious solutions and academic instruction moved online to lower the chance of an infection.

All rabbis residing in Kazakhstan are immigrants and members of the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic sect, which is headquartered in Brooklyn, NY. Chabad is acknowledged for its outreach initiatives in nations all around the globe. In Kazakhstan, Chabad rabbis complete kosher slaughtering, instruct, and guide congregations. Though they are technically outsiders, the Jewish communities have embraced them. The closeness of these communities is proving their ideal defense towards the pandemic that’s ravaging the planet.

Gil Smolinski is a small business developer, entrepreneur, and advisor to startups. He is a loving husband and father of two, who enjoys the depths of guides and the sea and tends to dive into both equally.