Many years ago, their ancestors were exiled to Abakan, the capital city of the Republic of Khakassia, Russia; now their descendants have restored Jewish pride to the Republic in the southwestern part of Eastern Siberia.
The city whose name recalls the suffering of thousands of Jews, who were sent there as a punishment for keeping Torah and Mitzvos during the dark days, celebrated the opening of a new Jewish community center last week.
Abakan is home to a tiny Jewish community that is a member of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, which includes over 300 communities throughout Russia, headed by Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar.
For the first time in the city’s history, the Jewish community was fortunate to celebrate the opening of a new Jewish center which includes a synagogue and center for community organizations.
The new center was built with the support of philanthropist Mr. Ivan Glasenberg of Switzerland, and was the initiative of the Shliach and Rabbi of the bordering city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia Rabbi Binyomin Wagner, Head of the Krasnoyarsk community R’ Uri Livshitz, and the Head of the Abakan Jewish community Hirsh (Gregory) Pichotnik.
The grand opening event for the new building was held with the participation of Rabbi Berel Lazar and local government officials.
Just before the event, the Rabbis were invited to a special meeting with the Governor Mr. Viktor Zimin, who promised to continue his support of the Jewish community.
Rabbi Lazar spent Shabbos in the city, which was an emotional and uplifting experience for the residents. He conducted the Davening and the Shabbos meals with the participation of many local Jews.
For many of the locals it was the first time they had seen a Synagogue or even a Sefer Torah, with some participants relating that they had heard about it from their parents as children.
In the last few weeks, Chabad students on Merkos Shlichus, Dovid Rader and Yitchok Stell, visited dozens of homes in the area, affixing Mezuzahs and giving residents the opportunity to put on Tefillin for the first time in their lives, preparing the city for the historic event.