The Jewish Agency for Israel recently organized bar and bat mitzvah’s for seven young Jews in one of the northernmost Jewish communities in the world – Murnmask, Russia (the largest city north of the Arctic Circle). The Jewish community in Murnmask is twinned with Beth Israel – the West Temple in Cleveland and the event was organized with the support of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.
The small Jewish community of Murnmask numbers only a few hundred and does not have a synagogue. Jewish teenagers in the city were uncertain whether it was accepted practice to celebrate their bar or bat mitzvah once they had passed the ages of 12 or 13, but after they read in the media that Natan Sharansky had celebrated his bar mitzvah at age 65, they asked The Jewish Agency to organize a ceremony for the city’s Jewish youth.
A Jewish Agency youth shaliach traveled the 1,400km from St Petersburg to organize the ceremony. Each of the participants was presented with a copy of the Chumash.
Murnmask suffers from bitterly cold winters and on the day of the ceremony the entrance to The Jewish Agency building in the city was heavily blocked by snow, requiring the participants to dig their way into the building.
The Jewish Agency for Israel runs Hebrew and Jewish history classes for the small Jewish population of the city. Members of the Beth Israel – the West Temple sent gifts to the Murnmask community for Hanukah and members of the two communities regularly exchange personal updates and messages via email.