Jewish History in St. Petersburg:


Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, St. Petersburg replaced Moscow as the capital of the Russian Empire during the years 1712-1918. Over the course of the next two centuries, St. Petersburg transformed into a grand metropolis and chief conduit of Western influence, awarding it the title, window to the west. With a population of five million, it is Russia’s second largest city and Europe's third, considered the most European and cosmopolitan urban center in the former Soviet Union.


In the city’s early days, under strict Tsarist rule, restrictions were placed on Jewish residency, limiting it to 25,000 wealthy, educated Jews, who played a vital role in developing city life. In later years, many more Jews flocked to the new capital. By the time of the Nazi invasion in 1941, the Jewish population of the city (which was now known as Leningrad) was estimated to be 200,000. During the nearly three-year siege by the Germans, tens of thousands of Jews were among the over one million people who died of starvation or disease. 


During the Soviet era, Communist restrictions destroyed any semblance of Jewish community life, and most of the city's Jews lost all connection to their heritage. Still, a determined few remained undaunted – turning it into the center of the Refusenik movement. Following the Six-Day War, a number of youths in the community began to affiliate themselves with Israel and a Jewish national identity. Hebrew classes were organized in secret, public protests erupted over the government’s refusal to let Jews immigrate to Israel, and a sensational attempt to hijack an airplane from Leningrad Airport drew worldwide attention in 1970. 

Jewish Community Today & Local Organizations:


Today, St. Petersburg's Jews are economically diverse, culturally sophisticated, and highly assimilated. Nonetheless, many Jews have developed a strong desire to reconnect with their Jewish heritage. The Jewish community in the city is now the second largest in Russia, after Moscow. Most Jews there remain secular, but there is also an observant, Orthodox community. St. Petersburg’s Jewish population declined dramatically following the collapse of the Soviet Union and mass migration to Israel and the US. The current estimate is that the city is home to 100,000 Jews – around 20% of Russia’s Jewish population.


There are six synagogues and Chabad Centers in St. Petersburg, all blooming with religious and cultural life. One of the most beautiful synagogues – the second largest in Europe – is the Grand Choral Synagogue, which dates back to 1893. It was the city's only synagogue that survived Nazi bombing and still stood after the World War II. St. Petersburg is also home to a Holocaust Memorial, and the Museum of the History and Culture of the Jewish People in Russia.


St. Petersburg’s Jewish community accommodates two Jewish day schools, two daycares, a Yeshiva high school, and a university, where Hillel activities involve thousands of young people. Opened in 2005, the Yesod JCC houses six of the city’s Jewish organizations, and offers multiple educational and entertainment programs for all ages. There are also summer and winter camps available for children and teenagers.



Eva (Welfare Organization)

AdainLo (Family services, special Needs Programs, Kindergartens)