Jewish Community in Kazakhstan Celebrates Torah Scroll Introduction

The twelfth Torah scroll introduction ceremony in Kazakhstan was called a holiday and a celebration of the peace, friendship and respect that prevail in the country and in its relationships with its neighbours.

“Unity, peace and harmony, which incorporate the successful experience of Kazakhstan as an independent country, are the foundation of the country’s future, where the members of the Jewish community live,” Chief Rabbi Yeshaya Cohen said at the event.

He called the introduction ceremony an important event. It was a tribute to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the Lubavitch Rebbe’s father, after which the Jewish centre of Kazakhstan, Chabad Lubavitch, was named. Participants also mentioned the double celebration of the day: the 25th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence and the remembrance day of the rabbi.

“The wisdom of the Kazakh leadership; the peace-loving policy of the President; and the tolerance, openness and friendliness of Kazakhstan have made it possible to revive the spiritual traditions of the Jews,” said the Chief Rabbi of Kazakhstan.

The fate of Rabbi Schneerson was closely connected with the emergence of freedom of religion. He was born in Ukraine in 1878 and died in 1944 in Almaty. All his life, his greatest desire was to follow the traditions of ancestors while not hiding from the state and society. Soviet authorities condemned the rabbi to five years in exile in Shieli Village in Kyzylorda region. After serving his sentence, he spent the last few months of his life in Almaty, where he died. Even in exile, Schneerson continued to study the Torah and support other Jews.

His efforts contributed to the prosperity of Kazakhstan’s Jewish community today, speakers at the event said. His struggle became part of the common victory of religious tolerance, which created room for the current government’s support for spirituality and guarantees of freedom of religion and belief as spelled out in Kazakhstan’s Constitution. Cohen added that he will never forget the moment when President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev transferred the case file of Rabbi Schneerson from the National Security Committee archives to the Lubavitch library in New York in 1999.

“Thus, [Nazarbayev] clearly confirmed that Kazakhstan follows a new political course and will not accept a ban on freedom of belief and religion,” added Cohen.

The new Torah scroll was written in Israel for the central synagogue in Almaty. The Torah was written by a specialist on parchment made from the hide of a kosher animal. The scrolls were written in the same font as Jewish tradition holds that the very first Torah, revealed to Moses thousands of years ago on Mount Sinai, did, and as it did, contains 600,000 letters. Today the Torah can be freely read, studied and practiced in Kazakhstan.