The Most Northern Synagogue
in the World
We are saying hello to you
from the other end of the world – Northern Russia. Having
the Urals on the East and partly stretching over the Polar
Circle on the North there is the Republic of Komi, a subject
of Russian Federation, a huge region, as large as France,
Netherlands and Belgium combined, but almost unknown outside
The Republic is named after
a small Ugro-Finnic ethnic group of Komi, who have lived for
centuries in this cold, tough, but rich with natural
resources, wonderful forests, and rivers place. The capital
of the Republic is Syktyvkar, a modern industrial city with
the population of 200.000 people.
Maybe it is a little
surprising to find here a large Jewish community, but not
for those who have some knowledge of Russian history. In
1930th Stalin ordered to build dozens of prison
camps in Komi. The Republic became one of the biggest and
deadliest branches of GULAG. In the following years billions
of innocent people were brought here from all parts of the
Soviet Union, and many of them never saw freedom again.
Among the prisoners were tens of thousands of Jews, and some
of those who were lucky enough to survive the camps’
terrible hardships settled in Komi attracted by its
beautiful nature and its kind, plain and open people. Jews
have made an enormous impact on all areas of local culture,
education, and economy. Scientists, teachers, doctors,
artists, actors, engineers, etc., they have found here new
home and play an important role in the republic’s life.
Our community includes
people of different generations, from former GULAG prisoners
to their grand- and great-grandchildren. The community was
formed in early 1990th and since then has grown
up into an active and respected organization. We have around
1500 members in Syktyvkar, and another 1000 members in other
Komi cities like Inta, Uhta and Vorkuta. Our organization
(The Jewish National and Cultural Autonomy in Komi) from the
very beginning is led by Leonid Zilberg, a well known in the
Republic political activist and businessman. We have a
Sunday school and young people’s club; we are publishing
books, helping poor families and older people, organizing
sport competitions; we meet at our Center to celebrate
Jewish religious holydays and the community members’
birthdays, to study Torah, to discuss the currant political
and cultural events.
And ‘we have a dream’… We
want to build a synagogue in Syktyvkar. The project is
strongly supported by the Head (governor) of the Komi
Republic Vladimir Torlopov. With his help we have got a
space for the synagogue at the downtown, and he also helped
to find a bank from which we can get a loan
with a below-market rate of interest.
We have got a nice architectural project and have arranged
its realization with one of the local construction firms on
the most favorable for us terms. If we succeed in our plans
it will be the most northern synagogue in the world. We
think it is symbolic. It is the sign of the tragic destiny
of Jewish people scattered all over the world, of their
stamina and courage, which helped to survive even the
hardest ordeals, as well as of their kindness, good hearts,
and willingness to share their secular and spiritual
knowledge with people around them.
Most of the observant
members of the community are orthodox Jews. Unfortunately we
don’t have a rabbi. So it is another problem. But we believe
we can solve it too.
It is a bold project, but
we hope we can realize it with help from our friends abroad.
Any kind of help – intellectual, financial, moral – is
precious for us. We hope you can find our project
interesting and contact us for future discussions, or spread
this information among your friends.
You can get more
information from our site (http://www.jskomi.bravehost.com).
Sorry, it is still under construction but you can already
find there more detailed facts about our community, people,
activities, our city and the republic.
Leonid A. Zilberg,
The Executive President of the Jewish Community in the
Nikolay F. Zyuzev
The coordinator of the Jewish Community in the Republic of
Phone: 7 8212 215685 (home)
7 9222 726350 (cell)