Introduction / History To understand the Russian Jewish people and to pray for them accurately, it is important to know their history up to the present time. Migrating northward from the areas around the Black Sea, the Jewish people established a presence in the region of Kiev (Ukraine-Russia) in the 10th century and in the Crimea in the 13th. In the span of several decades, Russia found itself governing a Jewish population estimated to be up to 800,000, making this the largest community of Jewish people in the world. In 1791, Catherine the Great took measures aimed at restricting the Jews freedom of movement and preventing them from settling in other regions of the empire. These measures, reaffirmed by successive monarchs between 1804 and 1825, gave birth to what was called the "residential zone" inside which they forced Jews to live. Forbidden from working the land, Jews survived as merchants and artisans concentrated in small towns. In addition, certain large cities, like Kiev, Moscow and Saint Petersburg, were off limits to Jews. In the mid-nineteenth century, they offered permission to live beyond the "residential zone" to affluent and educated Jews. By the late nineteenth century, the affluent Jewish people had left small rural towns and moved to Saint Petersburg and Moscow. A critical turning point for Russian Jews occurred on March 1, 1881, when Czar Alexander II, the emancipator of millions of serfs (slaves), was assassinated by young revolutionaries who regarded him as a tyrant. One member of this revolutionary group was a young Jewish woman whom they captured. They blamed the death of the czar on the Jewish people. From 1881 to 1884, there were over 200 anti-Jewish events known as pogroms. It led Russian Jews into mass poverty, and thousands died. They found themselves forced to make choices between permanent helplessness or revolution. It was during these oppressive years that the Russian Jewish people grew stronger and developed their own culture related to literature, theater, music and politics. It was not until 1917 before they abolised the "residential zone," and large communities of Jewish intellectuals and artists lived in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The Jewish State Theater was founded and applauded by the Russian people. The Russian Bolsheviks encouraged the opening of Jewish schools, especially for teaching drama, music and Yiddish. By 1930, the political air of Russia started again to show antireligious policies compounded by the height of Stalinist oppression between 1937-1939. On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany surged across the Soviet Union and exterminated the Jewish population in occupied territories. They probably murdered a million Russian Jewish people in one of the most horrible massacres in human history. Beginning in 1948, anti-Semitism remained a policy of Russia. All remaining active synagogues, Jewish theaters, libraries, and Yiddish presses were shut down. They dismissed Jews who held top positions. From Israel's establishment in 1948 to the Six-Day War in 1967, Soviet Aliyah (immigration of Jewish people to Israel) remained minimal. By the end of the 1960s, most Soviet Jews were assimilated into communist Russia and were non-religious because of persecution. Many Jewish people tried to hide their identity, but some changed their names. The exodus of Russian Jews official started in 1968. Over one million Russian Jews settled in Israel and most of the others migrated to the United States, Canada, Australia, and amazingly, to Germany. Some of these Russian Jews were messianic Jewish believers who openly shared their faith with the Jewish people in Germany.
What are their lives like? Today's Russian Jewish community in Canada is overwhelmingly urban.
What are their beliefs? Most of them do not adhere to their spiritual inheritance and have no knowledge of God's word in the Torah, the Hebrew Scriptures or Tanakh. Despite the fact that Russian rabbis have opened a few synagogues and Jewish schools to promote Judaic studies, they are basically attended by older Russian Jews. The younger Russian Jews are not interested and often hide their Jewish heritage.
What are their needs? No matter where they live, Russian Jews need to put their faith and hope in Jesus Christ. This is very difficult, since their oppressors were officially Christian.
Prayer Points Pray that Bible-believing Christians and Messianic Jewish believers will reach out to the Russian Jewish people, helping them to begin their own disciple making movement in Canada. Pray that Russian rabbis and Jewish leaders will be reached by believers who can show them the way of the cross.