While the entire world is caught up in a raging storm, and no one knows what tomorrow will bring, Russia’s Jewish communities are an island of peace and security. As soon as the global crisis began with the Corona virus, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar stood at the forefront, giving clear instructions and daily updates, giving guidance in all practical matters while strictly adhering to Halachic guidelines.
As the situation progressed, the Chief Rabbi took significant steps, including those which at first seemed overly precautious. He did not remain indifferent, and his words are circulated every day in every possible way, to reach each and every Jew, in order to strengthen their faith and confidence in Hashem, who does not sleep nor slumber, along with strong practical steps that must be taken in order to stay safe, as is clearly stated in the Torah “Venishmartem meod lenafshoseichem”.
Additionally, Rabbi Lazar is giving online public Torah classes around the clock, attracting many young people, and allowing them to ask questions, thus giving them an opportunity to quench their thirst for Hashem’s word.
The synagogues and all community institutions closed last week, with only matza distribution and minimum essentials remaining open.
Meanwhile the existing aid and assistance programs in Moscow are stepping up and have expanded their operations into several additional areas. Despite the Shaarey Tzedek Chesed Center having closed its doors to guests, it continues to send out volunteers with hundreds of meals daily. The meals are delivered to the homebound, quarantined, isolated, and those who are stranded in Moscow’s various airports.
Bikur Cholim of Moscow is also delivering meals along with essential Judaica items to community members who are hospitalized in the new Corona Hospital that has opened to deal with this crisis.
The community leaders, headed by Rabbi Mordechai Weisberg, are constantly monitoring those in need of any assistance, and updating the general public with the latest developments, passing on government instructions, and are directly in touch with the hospital’s top doctors and specialists.
The students of the closed educational institutions are continuing their studies through the Ohr Menachem Online School. Throughout the year this platform is used on a regular basis by hundreds of Shluchims children who live in far flung cities throughout Russia. Now it serves also during evening hours for nightly Torah classes and even farbrengens in different languages and for different levels.