Sochi Winter Olympics Go Kosher

by | Feb 17, 2014 | Israel, Standing With Israel

Sochi’s lone rabbi has drawn on reinforcements from the United States and shipped in 7,000 kosher meals to help cater for Jewish visitors to the Winter Olympics in Russia, a country where Judaism is reviving after decades of repression.

Speaking virtually no Russian at the time, Ari Edelkopf, a native of California, moved to Sochi 12 years ago with his wife Chani to establish a synagogue. In the run-up to the Olympics, he said he received emails from Jews from around the world, anxious to find out where they could eat kosher food and celebrate the Shabbat, or Sabbath.

“Yes there’s a synagogue, there is a mikveh (ritual bath), there is children’s education here and there’s kosher food and there’s Shabbat, so you can come to Sochi, you can spend time here and have all your Jewish needs taken care of,” Edelkopf told Reuters in an interview.

Jews from Israel, Russia, Australia, Ukraine and the United States are among those who have gathered to pray and sing together in Sochi and share kosher meals of gefilte fish, chicken and wine.

“That deserves respect and appreciation—I’m sure that took some coordination,” said Yossi Sharon, 29, an American of Israeli origin who works for a financial advisory company in Moscow. “It’s nice to bring Jews from all over the world together.”

Via the website JewishSochi.com, visitors can place orders for kosher food, which has mainly been sent in from Moscow. They can also find directions to the synagogue and two prayer rooms, equipped with Shabbat candles and Torah scrolls, in hotels in Sochi and in the mountains above the city.

Rabbis Flown In

Much of Judaism’s revival in Russia has been driven by Chabad-Lubavitch, a worldwide Jewish movement that has flown in 12 rabbinical interns to back up Edelkopf for the duration of the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, which run until March 16.

“We do feel that our roots are here in this land and we’re coming back,” said JJ Hecht, a rabbi from Ellenville, N.Y., referring to the 250-year old origins of Chabad-Lubavitch in what is now Belarus.

“Now that I’ve come, after all those tragic experiences happened, after the past 20 years of Chabad building Judaism in Russia … I am fascinated and I’m very excited.”

Jennifer Ullman, a volunteer with the U.S. Olympic Committee’s hospitality team, joined Hecht and another rabbi, Dovid Katz, last Friday evening to mark the start of the sabbath in one of the makeshift hotel prayer sites, having met them by chance in a supermarket.

“I felt their energy and I felt it was positive,” she said. “What’s important for me is the community, and being connected to my faith.”

Mass Emigration

In Soviet times, the few functioning synagogues operated under the gaze of the KGB and it was impossible for most Jews to be circumcised, learn Hebrew, get access to kosher food and practice their religion openly.

All of them, whether practicing or not, had ‘Every’ (Jew) entered in their passport, and were liable to suffer discrimination at university or at work. More than a million emigrated, mostly to Israel.

“It’s no secret that for many, many years there was no Jewish life in Russia, many Jews were scared to say that they were Jewish. It was very hard to be Jewish here in those days,” said local rabbi Edelkopf.

But since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, new synagogues have opened and many Jews have rediscovered their roots. “It’s become a normative thing for Jews to be openly Jewish, which is a massive change,” said Philip Carmel, spokesman for the European Jewish Congress in Brussels.

While anti-Semitism exists here as in the West, fanned by a rise in nationalism and xenophobia since the fall of Communism, it does not pose an existential threat for Russia’s estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Jews, he said in a telephone interview.

Edelkopf calls it a ‘miracle’ that Sochi now boasts a synagogue with 30-40 regular worshippers, a kosher store, a pre-school with a dozen children and a summer camp that attracts about 30.

“The truth is that it’s part of a big Jewish renaissance that’s happening in Russia today,” he said.

“We’ve seen a big awakening from the youth … They’re really wanting to find out what being Jewish really means—not only in negative way, the way they were used to in Russia, but as a positive.

“What is this heritage about, what is our Torah about, how the grandparents and great grandparents lived in the Jewish way of life—they want also to adopt that way of life today here in Russia.”

Editing by Mitch Phillips

@2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

All of us at some point will hit a place of getting the wind knocked out of us. We all experience unexpected detours and times when there seems to be no way out. But there is One who lives in us, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gives us the strength to overcome obstacles....

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Whether it is the Spirit leading or forbidding in the book of Acts, or the Spirit leading throughout Christian history, it’s clear that the leading of the Spirit is important. In the Old Testament, it appears that the Spirit of God could be withdrawn completely from...

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Everyone has a race to run. That just means we all have a life to live. The apostle Paul says in Hebrews 12:1 (NIV), “Therefore...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for...

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

God says that during this season, He is turning up the heat, finding the gold and bringing His refining fire. Job makes a powerful statement of faith as he says of the Lord, "When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold." God knew Job's heart and Job knew the heart...

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

In 1971, I was invited to spend one month in Singapore at a new institute that had been started by John Haggai. It was still in the formative stages then—a place where Asian church leaders would be trained and challenged to witness for Christ. Today, more than 40...

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

It was a Pentecost bloodbath and most Christians never heard about it. More than 50 Christians were killed in one of the deadliest terror attacks on Nigerians this year. Scores of gunmen rushed in to kill Christians in the midst of worship. All told, over 360 million...

RECENT ARTICLES

Prophecy: A Window of Time Has Opened for Believers to Preach the Truth

I was rejoicing and praising God on Friday, June 24, 2022, for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, knowing that an ungodly decree was overturned and one national curse was broken. I heard by the Holy...
The Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: The People I Saw in Hell

The Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: The People I Saw in Hell

In 1998, God gave me a life-changing vision of hell. I receive many questions about my experience from people all over the world, but one question I'm often asked is, "Who did you see in hell?" There are others who say they've had an experience like mine, and they...

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

One of the most amazing facts about the Founding Fathers of our nation is this: The one referred to as the "voice" of the revolution (John Adams) and the one referred to as the "pen" of the revolution (Thomas Jefferson) both died on the same day—July 4, 1826—exactly...

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

It’s a question I frequently hear. It’s one I’ve asked. And maybe it’s one you’ve asked, too. The question is, “God, why did You give this to me?” This can be any number of issues, from emotional or psychological struggles to symptoms or sicknesses, disabilities or...

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

I sense it. And I perceive a growing number of people in massive proportions sense the increasing momentum of power and might worldwide. Something is on the horizon—something more eerie and ominous than what the people of the world have ever before experienced. Even...

Pin It on Pinterest