Judaism in Perm Region
Terms «Judaism» and «Hebraism» derive from Greek name of Judah’s tribe that entitled Judaea. «Judaism» actually denotes Jewish religion. Notions «Hebrew» and «Jew» are are specified by the same term in most languages and are not differentiated by speakers.
Perm Jewry appeared in Perm more than 150 years ago. Jewsdomiciled here relatively recently. The first Perm Jews were those, who had served their full term in office and became entitled to settle outside the «pale of settlement» (areas, where Jews were allowed to move in on a permanent basis).
There were 194 Jews on military service in Perm in 1861. Later changes occurred in Russian legislation: certain categories of Jews were authorized to settle countrywide without any restrictions (merchants of the 1 and 2 гильдии, people with higher education, chemists, dentists, medical assistants, artisans, etc). This lead to an increase in Jewish population, mainly because of artisans, who arrived from densely populated territories beyond the «pale of settlement».
Jewish community began to form around that time and by the beginning of the XX centrury it had numbered about a thousand people. Then Judaic cemetry — «beit — kvarot» apeared that is located in the Egoshikha cemetry. In 1896 there already had been a house of worship and heder (a Jewish school for boys). Soon first synagogue appeared in Kungurskaya Street (now Komsomolsky avenue).The building hasn’t survived to the present date, now «Prometey» shop is located on that site. Jewish 2-grade school, library, community children centre and funeral community were run in Perm before the revolution of 1917. The building of the sinagogue and community property were confiscated in 1918 and hadn’t been returned until 1922.
Despite all the persecutions, Jewish community existed in Perm during the Soviet times. A small house, bought by local Jews served as a sinagogue. Many Jews put up huppah, observing wedding ceremony traditions, made circumcision, prayed in sinagogue, and, of course, studied the Torah.
David Vajs had been head rabbi of Perm since 1996. He organized:
- daily minyan (congregate prayer or a public religious service) in Perm sinagogue.
- kosher dining hall (where food, compliant with kashrut dietary laws is served. Pork, mollusc and crabmeat don’t comply with those rules, moreover there are special regulations of kosher cattle slaughter),
- Jewish funeral,
- Hanukkah (festival of light than includes lighting of Hanukkah candles, festive meals and concerts. A circle of followers formed around David Vajs, many of them became religious Jews and now live in Israel. Some of the followers decided to stay in Perm. Family of Eliyagy Habi, who became rabbi of Perm sinagogue arrived in out city in 2001. Permanent presence of rabbi in the community allowed it to make a step forward on the way of its development. Circle of congregation has considerably increased, number of people, interested in taking part in Jewish festivals and community events has also grown.
It is necessary to mention one of the most important festivals, marked by the Jewish community in Perm. Purim, the Feast of Lots is a festival, commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian Empire from Haman’s plot to annihilate them, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther (Megillat Esther). Sending food gifts to friends and giving charity to the poor are part of this holiday.
Festive meal cooked specially for Purim, called SSe`udat Purim is also very important for observance of celebration traditions.