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Malka Trobnikov-Reinin. Leningrad USSR 1989

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Malka Trobnikov-Reinin. Leningrad USSR 1989 (today St. Petersburg Russia)
Left: Malka Trobnikov-Reinin. On the right is , a member of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's delegation. USSR August 1989
The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU – Museum of the Jewish People
Courtesy of, Pnina and Baruch Beit Or (Lichthouse) Archive

Photo period:
1989
ID Number:
19189095
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)
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St. Petersburg

Санкт-Петербург; also known as Petrograd 1914-1924, and Leningrad 1924-1991

Capital of Russia until 1918. An industrial city and major port on the Baltic Sea.

CONTEMPORARY HISTORY

The Jewish community of St. Petersburg is the second-largest in Russia. Mass emigration reduced the Jewish population from 107,000 in 1989 to about 40,000 in 2002. A 2010 census revealed that these numbers did not change considerably and that the number of Jewish residents in St. Petersburg has remained at around 40,000 people. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union the Jews of St. Petersburg were in many ways disconnected from Jewish culture. However, since the end of communism in Russia, St. Petersburg has emerged as a vibrant Jewish community. While a significant segment of the community remains uncomfortable with, and not entirely open about, its Jewishness, an increasing number of the city's Jews identify as Jewish and have begun observing Jewish traditions and rituals.

Jews began arriving in St. Petersburg during the second half of the 19th century, primarily from the "Pale of Residence", which was made up of modern-day Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Moldova, and Lithuania. This time was marked by intense Russification, which included a high rate of mixed marriages and conversions to Christianity. Most of the Jews of St. Petersburg have lived in the city for generations, though there are many who have arrived more recently from other locations within Russia and the region, including the Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Georgia. Since the restriction on emigration was lifted in 1989, as many as 230,000 Jews left for Israel.

Two umbrella organizations serve both the community of St. Petersburg and Russian Jewry more generally: the Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Russia, and The Russian-Jewish Congress. With the support of foreign Jewish philanthropy, several Jewish welfare programs, as well as a full range of religious and educational institutions, have been developed in St. Petersburg. Russia's network of Jewish educational institutions includes four Jewish universities, which are mainly located in St. Petersburg and Moscow. A number of smaller religious and social organizations have been established by young Jews in their twenties and thirties. Events such as the Jewish festival take place annually in the community. St. Petersburg has also been host to annual events and conferences organized by Limmud FSU, an organization which specializes in meeting the cultural needs of the Jewish communities of the former Soviet Union (FSU). Since 2011 these conferences have attracted hundreds of Jews from St. Petersburg, providing a safe environment for Jewish youth to learn more about their Jewish heritage. Jewish newspapers and Russian-language media have emerged in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities with smaller organized Jewish communities.

The vast majority of Russian Jewry, including the community of St. Petersburg, is secular and defines their Jewishness in cultural rather than religious terms. Of the religiously observant Jews in St. Petersburg, most are Orthodox. In an effort to support the resurgence in religious observance, many rabbis from outside Russia have been brought to St. Petersburg. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has been very active in the community since the end of the 20th century, and the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism have also been introduced.

The central hub of Jewish life in St. Petersburg is the Yesod Jewish Community Center (JCC). Opened in 2005, the facility houses six of the community's major Jewish organizations, including the Hesed Avraam Charity Center, Adain Lo Family Center, Hillel Student Center, the Granatik Children Center, ORT, and the Library & Eitan Jewish Education Center. Additionally, the JCC offers many cultural and educational programs. It holds lectures, sponsors events, and includes its own Sunday school.

The most notable synagogue in St. Petersburg is the Grand Choral Synagogue. Constructed in the Moorish Revival-Byzantine style between 1880 and 1888, and consecrated in 1893, the Grand Choral is the second-largest synagogue in Europe. Prior to its construction, a synagogue large enough to serve the entire Jewish community in Russia's then-capital did not exist. However, the synagogue could only be built after obtaining a building permit from Tsar Alexander II in 1869.

Located in the Russian Museum of Ethnography is an exhibit dedicated to Russian Jewry. The exhibit "History and Culture of the Jewish people of the Territory of Russia" is considered by many in the community to be the first step toward the development of a completely separate Jewish museum. As one of the city's important cultural institutions, the museum attracts visitors from all over Russia, including Jews from neighboring countries.

Another significant Jewish landmark is the Holocaust memorial, located in Tsarskoye Selo. The monument stands just 500 meters from Catherin's palace where the Jewish ghetto was located during the Second World War.

One of the oldest points of Jewish interest in the city is St. Petersburg's Jewish cemetery. Founded in 1875, the cemetery serves as the burial place for several historical figures such as the sculptor Mark Antokolsky, the 19th century scientist and Jewish community leader David Ginsburg, and Abraham Lubanov, who served as the head rabbi of the St. Petersburg Synagogue during World War II.

HISTORY

There is evidence that there were some Marranos who settled in St. Petersburg soon after it was in 1703 by Peter the Great. "The Portuguese Jew," Jan DaCosta (who was actually a converso), was one of the jesters at the royal court during the first half of the 18th century. The city's first police chief was also a converso from the Netherlands. Otherwise, Jews were not allowed to live in the city. Additionally, Czarina Elizabeth issued intolerant decrees against the Jews, and the few Jews who were living in St. Petersburg were forced to leave. Catherine II (Catherine the Great), on the other hand, was interested in attracting Jewish contractors, industrialists, and physicians to the city, and therefore issued instructions to the authorities to overlook the presence of the "useful" Jews living there with their families and assistants and had the protection of court officials. It was Catherine II who, after the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, created the Pale of Settlement, territories in which the Jews of the Russian Empire were permitted to settle permanently (unless they had special permission to settle elsewhere).

With the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, St. Petersburg became a center for the millions of Jews who were incorporated into the Russian Empire. The city quickly became a destination for upper class Jews, both the "useful" Jews—the army veterans, artisans, and wealthy merchants who had official permission to live outside of the Pale—as well as the Jews who settled in St. Petersburg illegally. The leader of Chabad Chasidism, Shneur Zalman of Lyady, was imprisoned in St. Petersburg from 1798 until 1800/1801.

The situation of the Jews worsened with the accession of Czar Nicholas I. In 1827 he issued the Statute on Conscription Duty, which imposed a draft on the Jews of Russia and cancelled the earlier provision that allowed Jews to pay a monetary random instead of submitting to the draft. The draftees would have to serve 25 years, and would fall on Jewish boys and men between the ages of 12 and 25 (as opposed to the general population, in which men 18 to 35 were eligible for the draft). The idea was to modernize and Russify the Jewish population, and became a communal crisis, particularly for the more traditional Jewish communities.

The situation shifted again with the reign of Alexander II. "Useful" Jews, such as army veterans, university graduates, artisans, and upper-class merchants were once again allowed to legally settle in St. Petersburg. By the end of Alexander II's reign in 1881 there were 17,253 Jews in St. Petersburg, making up approximately 2% of the population. Upper class Jews, including the barons of the Guenzburg family became the de facto leaders and representatives before the Central Government.

Several figures held the position of Kazyonnyy Ravin (Government-Appointed Rabbi) in St. Petersburg, including the German-born Abraham Neiman, Avram Drabkin, and Moshe Eisenstadt. Other rabbis who were not officially appointed, yet who led the Jews of the community, were Yitshak Blaser, Yekutiel Zalman Landau, and David Tevel Katzenellenbogen. After 24 years of dealing with bureaucracy and construction, the magnificent Grand Choral Synagogue was completed and consecrated in 1893. It was built in the Moorish style, and contained 1,200 seats. In spite of this triumph, it is important to note that with the opening of the Grand Choral Synagogue, all of the other existing sanctuaries needed to be closed, and their congregants were compelled to pray only in the Grand Choral Synagogue.

The Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew Jewish presses were centered in St. Petersburg from the 1870s until the revolution in 1905. The newspapers HaMelitz (1871-1873, 1878-1904), HaYom (1886-1888). Dos Yudishes Folksblat (1881-1890) and the first Russian daily newspaper in Yiddish, Der Fraynd (1903-1908), were all published out of St. Petersburg. The city was also the center of Russian-Jewish journalism and literature. One of the most outstanding publications was the Russian-Jewish encyclopedia, Yevreyskaya Entsiklopediya, which was published in 1908.

In spite of censorship, exclusions, and unremitting police persecutions, the community continued to grow, numbering 35,000 (1.8% of the city's population) in 1914.

Many national Jewish organizations located their headquarters in St. Petersburg. The oldest of these organizations was The Society for the Promotion of Culture Among the Jews of Russia, which was founded in 1863. Others included ORT, the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), the Chovevei Sefat Ever (renamed "Tarbut" after the 1917 Revolution), the Historical-Ethnographic Society, and the Society for Jewish Folk Music. Additionally, a number of institutions in the city housed various objects of Jewish interest. The city's Asian Museum housed a valuable Hebrew department. The Imperial Public Library contained one of the world's oldest and most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts. Under the initiative of Baron David Guenzburg, courses in Oriental Studies were opened in St. Petersburg in 1907. The concentration of public and cultural institutions in the city attracted Jewish authors and intellectuals, including A.A Harkavy, Judah Leib Katzenelson, Simon Dubnow, and father and son Michael and Eugene M. Kulisher.

World War I saw the Jewish population of Petrograd swell to more than 50,000 because of Jews fleeing from the battlefields within the Pale of Settlement, or Jews being expelled by the Russian army who accused them of collaborating with the Germans and Austrians. The influx of Jewish refugees was overwhelming to the city's Jewish residents, though they nonetheless attempted to accommodate them through organizations such as the Jewish Society for the Relief of War Victims.

After the February Revolution of 1917, all residence restrictions affecting the Jews of Petrograd were abolished. As a result, the city became a center for the activities of the diverse parties and factions within Russian Jewry. In June 1917, the Seventh Conference of the Zionist Organization of Russia was held in the city, and plans were also made to convene an All-Russian Jewish Congress in Petrograd. These improvements in Jewish life and national status were, however, short-lived. With the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, all Jewish political parties (along with any other non-Bolshevik parties) were forced underground. The center of government moved from Petrograd to Moscow, leaving the city's Jews far from the nation's political center. The transfer of the capital from Petrograd to Moscow in 1918, as well as the shortages and famine that affected the city during the Russian Civil War, severely shook the Jewish community, and many Jews returned to the provincial towns. It was during this difficult period that Joseph Trumpeldor created a Jewish battalion for the purposes of Jewish self-defense. Additionally, he founded the youth organization He-Halutz, to prepare Jewish youth for emigration to Palestine.

By 1920 there were 25,453 Jews (3.5% of the total population) living in Petrograd. With the consolidation of the Soviet regime, the number of Jews rapidly increased, to 52,373 in 1923 (4.9% of the total population), and 84,505 in 1926 (5.2% of the population).

A small group of Russian-Jewish intellectuals attempted to continue their literary and scientific work under the new regime. They worked to sustain their former cultural societies, and continued to publish scientific and literary periodicals. By the end of the 1920s, when these projects were shut down by the Soviet regime, many of these intellectuals left Russia, including Simon Dubnow and Saul M. Ginzburg. Nearly a decade later, by the end of the 1930s, the remaining Communist Jewish organizations had also been suppressed, as had public expressions of Jewish identity.

On the eve of the Nazi invasion, the number of Jews in Leningrad was estimated at about 200,000 people. During World War II, the Jews shared in the suffering and starvation during the German siege of the city. The author, literary critic, and historian Lidiya Yakovlevna Ginzburg was among the survivors of the siege of Leningrad.

In the census of 1959, 162,344 Jews were registered as living in Leningrad, but the real number was probably closer to 200,000. 13,728 of these respondents declared Yiddish as their mother tongue. The city's only synagogue was the Grand Choral Synagogue, which was still standing in spite of having been bombed by the Nazis in 1941 and 1943. During the 1950s Gedalia Pecherski was the chairman of the synagogue's board. Pecherski was not only devoted to the religious needs of the congregation, he also sent petitions to the Soviet government and the municipal authorities asking to be allowed to organize courses in subjects such as Hebrew and Jewish history. These petitions were always summarily rejected. Pecherski was arrested in 1961 and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, ostensibly for having "maintained contact with a foreign embassy [i.e Israel]." The rabbi of the synagogue, RabbiAbram Lubanov, who had been imprisoned in a forced labor camp during the Stalin era, was the dwindling congregation's spiritual leader.

In 1962-1964, as in other parts of the USSR, matzah-baking in the Leningrad synagogue was discontinued by the authorities. In 1962, on the eve of Simchat Torah, 25 Jewish youths were arrested while dancing in the street near the synagogue. In 1963 the authorities prohibited the use of the Jewish cemetery, which was ultimately closed in 1969.

In spite of the assimilation and population decline among Leningrad's Jews, they nonetheless took on an important role in the refusenik movement and the Jewish national revival that began to stir in the Soviet Union. After the Six Day War in 1967, Jewish youth more openly displayed their identification with Israel, in spite of the official Soviet anti-Israel campaign. Many began studying Hebrew in private underground groups, others protested publicly against the government's refusal to grant them exit permits for Israel. These protests were publicized abroad, and helped galvanize Jewish communities worldwide to help their Soviet brethren. Many of these activities led to the arrest and imprisonment of these young activists. Another group of young Jews, mostly from Riga, together with 2 non-Jews, were tried in Leningrad in December 1970 for allegedly planning to hijack a Soviet plane in order to land abroad and ultimately reach Israel. Two were sentenced to death, and the other to prison terms of 4-15 years. These sentences led to worldwide protests. On appeal in March, 1971, the Supreme Court of the Russian Republic commuted the death sentences to 15 years of hard labor, and some of the other sentences were reduced.

With the collapse of communism, St. Petersburg saw a Jewish communal revival. Chabad is particularly active in the city, and events such as Limmud FSU help St. Petersburg's Jews reconnect with their Jewish roots.

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Malka Trobnikov-Reinin. Leningrad USSR 1989

Malka Trobnikov-Reinin. Leningrad USSR 1989 (today St. Petersburg Russia)
Left: Malka Trobnikov-Reinin. On the right is , a member of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's delegation. USSR August 1989
The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU – Museum of the Jewish People
Courtesy of, Pnina and Baruch Beit Or (Lichthouse) Archive

Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

Санкт-Петербург; also known as Petrograd 1914-1924, and Leningrad 1924-1991

Capital of Russia until 1918. An industrial city and major port on the Baltic Sea.

CONTEMPORARY HISTORY

The Jewish community of St. Petersburg is the second-largest in Russia. Mass emigration reduced the Jewish population from 107,000 in 1989 to about 40,000 in 2002. A 2010 census revealed that these numbers did not change considerably and that the number of Jewish residents in St. Petersburg has remained at around 40,000 people. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union the Jews of St. Petersburg were in many ways disconnected from Jewish culture. However, since the end of communism in Russia, St. Petersburg has emerged as a vibrant Jewish community. While a significant segment of the community remains uncomfortable with, and not entirely open about, its Jewishness, an increasing number of the city's Jews identify as Jewish and have begun observing Jewish traditions and rituals.

Jews began arriving in St. Petersburg during the second half of the 19th century, primarily from the "Pale of Residence", which was made up of modern-day Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Moldova, and Lithuania. This time was marked by intense Russification, which included a high rate of mixed marriages and conversions to Christianity. Most of the Jews of St. Petersburg have lived in the city for generations, though there are many who have arrived more recently from other locations within Russia and the region, including the Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Georgia. Since the restriction on emigration was lifted in 1989, as many as 230,000 Jews left for Israel.

Two umbrella organizations serve both the community of St. Petersburg and Russian Jewry more generally: the Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Russia, and The Russian-Jewish Congress. With the support of foreign Jewish philanthropy, several Jewish welfare programs, as well as a full range of religious and educational institutions, have been developed in St. Petersburg. Russia's network of Jewish educational institutions includes four Jewish universities, which are mainly located in St. Petersburg and Moscow. A number of smaller religious and social organizations have been established by young Jews in their twenties and thirties. Events such as the Jewish festival take place annually in the community. St. Petersburg has also been host to annual events and conferences organized by Limmud FSU, an organization which specializes in meeting the cultural needs of the Jewish communities of the former Soviet Union (FSU). Since 2011 these conferences have attracted hundreds of Jews from St. Petersburg, providing a safe environment for Jewish youth to learn more about their Jewish heritage. Jewish newspapers and Russian-language media have emerged in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities with smaller organized Jewish communities.

The vast majority of Russian Jewry, including the community of St. Petersburg, is secular and defines their Jewishness in cultural rather than religious terms. Of the religiously observant Jews in St. Petersburg, most are Orthodox. In an effort to support the resurgence in religious observance, many rabbis from outside Russia have been brought to St. Petersburg. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has been very active in the community since the end of the 20th century, and the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism have also been introduced.

The central hub of Jewish life in St. Petersburg is the Yesod Jewish Community Center (JCC). Opened in 2005, the facility houses six of the community's major Jewish organizations, including the Hesed Avraam Charity Center, Adain Lo Family Center, Hillel Student Center, the Granatik Children Center, ORT, and the Library & Eitan Jewish Education Center. Additionally, the JCC offers many cultural and educational programs. It holds lectures, sponsors events, and includes its own Sunday school.

The most notable synagogue in St. Petersburg is the Grand Choral Synagogue. Constructed in the Moorish Revival-Byzantine style between 1880 and 1888, and consecrated in 1893, the Grand Choral is the second-largest synagogue in Europe. Prior to its construction, a synagogue large enough to serve the entire Jewish community in Russia's then-capital did not exist. However, the synagogue could only be built after obtaining a building permit from Tsar Alexander II in 1869.

Located in the Russian Museum of Ethnography is an exhibit dedicated to Russian Jewry. The exhibit "History and Culture of the Jewish people of the Territory of Russia" is considered by many in the community to be the first step toward the development of a completely separate Jewish museum. As one of the city's important cultural institutions, the museum attracts visitors from all over Russia, including Jews from neighboring countries.

Another significant Jewish landmark is the Holocaust memorial, located in Tsarskoye Selo. The monument stands just 500 meters from Catherin's palace where the Jewish ghetto was located during the Second World War.

One of the oldest points of Jewish interest in the city is St. Petersburg's Jewish cemetery. Founded in 1875, the cemetery serves as the burial place for several historical figures such as the sculptor Mark Antokolsky, the 19th century scientist and Jewish community leader David Ginsburg, and Abraham Lubanov, who served as the head rabbi of the St. Petersburg Synagogue during World War II.

HISTORY

There is evidence that there were some Marranos who settled in St. Petersburg soon after it was in 1703 by Peter the Great. "The Portuguese Jew," Jan DaCosta (who was actually a converso), was one of the jesters at the royal court during the first half of the 18th century. The city's first police chief was also a converso from the Netherlands. Otherwise, Jews were not allowed to live in the city. Additionally, Czarina Elizabeth issued intolerant decrees against the Jews, and the few Jews who were living in St. Petersburg were forced to leave. Catherine II (Catherine the Great), on the other hand, was interested in attracting Jewish contractors, industrialists, and physicians to the city, and therefore issued instructions to the authorities to overlook the presence of the "useful" Jews living there with their families and assistants and had the protection of court officials. It was Catherine II who, after the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, created the Pale of Settlement, territories in which the Jews of the Russian Empire were permitted to settle permanently (unless they had special permission to settle elsewhere).

With the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, St. Petersburg became a center for the millions of Jews who were incorporated into the Russian Empire. The city quickly became a destination for upper class Jews, both the "useful" Jews—the army veterans, artisans, and wealthy merchants who had official permission to live outside of the Pale—as well as the Jews who settled in St. Petersburg illegally. The leader of Chabad Chasidism, Shneur Zalman of Lyady, was imprisoned in St. Petersburg from 1798 until 1800/1801.

The situation of the Jews worsened with the accession of Czar Nicholas I. In 1827 he issued the Statute on Conscription Duty, which imposed a draft on the Jews of Russia and cancelled the earlier provision that allowed Jews to pay a monetary random instead of submitting to the draft. The draftees would have to serve 25 years, and would fall on Jewish boys and men between the ages of 12 and 25 (as opposed to the general population, in which men 18 to 35 were eligible for the draft). The idea was to modernize and Russify the Jewish population, and became a communal crisis, particularly for the more traditional Jewish communities.

The situation shifted again with the reign of Alexander II. "Useful" Jews, such as army veterans, university graduates, artisans, and upper-class merchants were once again allowed to legally settle in St. Petersburg. By the end of Alexander II's reign in 1881 there were 17,253 Jews in St. Petersburg, making up approximately 2% of the population. Upper class Jews, including the barons of the Guenzburg family became the de facto leaders and representatives before the Central Government.

Several figures held the position of Kazyonnyy Ravin (Government-Appointed Rabbi) in St. Petersburg, including the German-born Abraham Neiman, Avram Drabkin, and Moshe Eisenstadt. Other rabbis who were not officially appointed, yet who led the Jews of the community, were Yitshak Blaser, Yekutiel Zalman Landau, and David Tevel Katzenellenbogen. After 24 years of dealing with bureaucracy and construction, the magnificent Grand Choral Synagogue was completed and consecrated in 1893. It was built in the Moorish style, and contained 1,200 seats. In spite of this triumph, it is important to note that with the opening of the Grand Choral Synagogue, all of the other existing sanctuaries needed to be closed, and their congregants were compelled to pray only in the Grand Choral Synagogue.

The Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew Jewish presses were centered in St. Petersburg from the 1870s until the revolution in 1905. The newspapers HaMelitz (1871-1873, 1878-1904), HaYom (1886-1888). Dos Yudishes Folksblat (1881-1890) and the first Russian daily newspaper in Yiddish, Der Fraynd (1903-1908), were all published out of St. Petersburg. The city was also the center of Russian-Jewish journalism and literature. One of the most outstanding publications was the Russian-Jewish encyclopedia, Yevreyskaya Entsiklopediya, which was published in 1908.

In spite of censorship, exclusions, and unremitting police persecutions, the community continued to grow, numbering 35,000 (1.8% of the city's population) in 1914.

Many national Jewish organizations located their headquarters in St. Petersburg. The oldest of these organizations was The Society for the Promotion of Culture Among the Jews of Russia, which was founded in 1863. Others included ORT, the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), the Chovevei Sefat Ever (renamed "Tarbut" after the 1917 Revolution), the Historical-Ethnographic Society, and the Society for Jewish Folk Music. Additionally, a number of institutions in the city housed various objects of Jewish interest. The city's Asian Museum housed a valuable Hebrew department. The Imperial Public Library contained one of the world's oldest and most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts. Under the initiative of Baron David Guenzburg, courses in Oriental Studies were opened in St. Petersburg in 1907. The concentration of public and cultural institutions in the city attracted Jewish authors and intellectuals, including A.A Harkavy, Judah Leib Katzenelson, Simon Dubnow, and father and son Michael and Eugene M. Kulisher.

World War I saw the Jewish population of Petrograd swell to more than 50,000 because of Jews fleeing from the battlefields within the Pale of Settlement, or Jews being expelled by the Russian army who accused them of collaborating with the Germans and Austrians. The influx of Jewish refugees was overwhelming to the city's Jewish residents, though they nonetheless attempted to accommodate them through organizations such as the Jewish Society for the Relief of War Victims.

After the February Revolution of 1917, all residence restrictions affecting the Jews of Petrograd were abolished. As a result, the city became a center for the activities of the diverse parties and factions within Russian Jewry. In June 1917, the Seventh Conference of the Zionist Organization of Russia was held in the city, and plans were also made to convene an All-Russian Jewish Congress in Petrograd. These improvements in Jewish life and national status were, however, short-lived. With the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, all Jewish political parties (along with any other non-Bolshevik parties) were forced underground. The center of government moved from Petrograd to Moscow, leaving the city's Jews far from the nation's political center. The transfer of the capital from Petrograd to Moscow in 1918, as well as the shortages and famine that affected the city during the Russian Civil War, severely shook the Jewish community, and many Jews returned to the provincial towns. It was during this difficult period that Joseph Trumpeldor created a Jewish battalion for the purposes of Jewish self-defense. Additionally, he founded the youth organization He-Halutz, to prepare Jewish youth for emigration to Palestine.

By 1920 there were 25,453 Jews (3.5% of the total population) living in Petrograd. With the consolidation of the Soviet regime, the number of Jews rapidly increased, to 52,373 in 1923 (4.9% of the total population), and 84,505 in 1926 (5.2% of the population).

A small group of Russian-Jewish intellectuals attempted to continue their literary and scientific work under the new regime. They worked to sustain their former cultural societies, and continued to publish scientific and literary periodicals. By the end of the 1920s, when these projects were shut down by the Soviet regime, many of these intellectuals left Russia, including Simon Dubnow and Saul M. Ginzburg. Nearly a decade later, by the end of the 1930s, the remaining Communist Jewish organizations had also been suppressed, as had public expressions of Jewish identity.

On the eve of the Nazi invasion, the number of Jews in Leningrad was estimated at about 200,000 people. During World War II, the Jews shared in the suffering and starvation during the German siege of the city. The author, literary critic, and historian Lidiya Yakovlevna Ginzburg was among the survivors of the siege of Leningrad.

In the census of 1959, 162,344 Jews were registered as living in Leningrad, but the real number was probably closer to 200,000. 13,728 of these respondents declared Yiddish as their mother tongue. The city's only synagogue was the Grand Choral Synagogue, which was still standing in spite of having been bombed by the Nazis in 1941 and 1943. During the 1950s Gedalia Pecherski was the chairman of the synagogue's board. Pecherski was not only devoted to the religious needs of the congregation, he also sent petitions to the Soviet government and the municipal authorities asking to be allowed to organize courses in subjects such as Hebrew and Jewish history. These petitions were always summarily rejected. Pecherski was arrested in 1961 and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, ostensibly for having "maintained contact with a foreign embassy [i.e Israel]." The rabbi of the synagogue, RabbiAbram Lubanov, who had been imprisoned in a forced labor camp during the Stalin era, was the dwindling congregation's spiritual leader.

In 1962-1964, as in other parts of the USSR, matzah-baking in the Leningrad synagogue was discontinued by the authorities. In 1962, on the eve of Simchat Torah, 25 Jewish youths were arrested while dancing in the street near the synagogue. In 1963 the authorities prohibited the use of the Jewish cemetery, which was ultimately closed in 1969.

In spite of the assimilation and population decline among Leningrad's Jews, they nonetheless took on an important role in the refusenik movement and the Jewish national revival that began to stir in the Soviet Union. After the Six Day War in 1967, Jewish youth more openly displayed their identification with Israel, in spite of the official Soviet anti-Israel campaign. Many began studying Hebrew in private underground groups, others protested publicly against the government's refusal to grant them exit permits for Israel. These protests were publicized abroad, and helped galvanize Jewish communities worldwide to help their Soviet brethren. Many of these activities led to the arrest and imprisonment of these young activists. Another group of young Jews, mostly from Riga, together with 2 non-Jews, were tried in Leningrad in December 1970 for allegedly planning to hijack a Soviet plane in order to land abroad and ultimately reach Israel. Two were sentenced to death, and the other to prison terms of 4-15 years. These sentences led to worldwide protests. On appeal in March, 1971, the Supreme Court of the Russian Republic commuted the death sentences to 15 years of hard labor, and some of the other sentences were reduced.

With the collapse of communism, St. Petersburg saw a Jewish communal revival. Chabad is particularly active in the city, and events such as Limmud FSU help St. Petersburg's Jews reconnect with their Jewish roots.