By Rabbi Chaim Danzinger – Rostov, Russia
Eleven years ago, when we began exploring the possibility of moving on Shlichus to Russia, I contacted my good friend Rabbi Zvi Hershcovich who at the time was serving the Jewish community of Stavropol, Russia.
I asked him if he knew of cities that were in need of Shluchim. Zvi said that there were several cities around him with large populations of “Mountain Jews” who could really benefit from having a local Rabbi.
I remember laughing when I heard the name “mountain Jews.” It sounded so ancient and primitive. But a year later, when we relocated to Rostov, we met many of these Mountain Jews and have since gained much respect and admiration for them, and developed some deep friendships.
Gorski Evrei, as they are called in Russian, (Mountain Jews – or Kavkazi Jews) are Jews of Persian descent who have been living in the Caucus region for over a thousand years. When they came under attack by various local rulers, they escaped to the mountains so that they could continue living as proud Jews.
The Rebbe Rashab and the Frierdiker Rebbe sent Shluchim to support these Jews and help them continue to uphold Torah and Mitzvos.
This year, we dedicated our main Purim party in their honor and called it Purim in Kavkaz. We held a beautiful celebration with more than 300 people, who all fulfilled the mitzvos of Purim and danced well into the hours of the morning.
The Jewish community of Rostov also organized separate Purim celebrations for families with children, and for survivors and veterans. The real highlight of Purim was a beautiful musical production of Fiddler on the Roof by the students of our Jewish Day School.
As Purim was drawing to a close, 80 teenagers gathered for a special 4-day Enerjew Purim Shabbaton where young community activists, full of energy and Jewish pride, participated in workshops and activities and spent a beautiful Shabbos together.
Two girls chose Jewish names and one 15-year-old boy named Kiril even announced his decision to have a bris in two weeks time in honor of Bais Nissan, yartzeit of the Rebbe Rashab who lived in Rostov. The joy and inspiration of Purim continues to permeate the community long after the party is over.