Birobidzhan ( _ru. Биробиджа́н; _yi. style/yid|size=13pt|yid=ביראָבידזשאַן) is a town and the administrative center of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia. It is located on the Trans-Siberian railway, close to the border with the People's Republic of China, and is the home of the Birobidzhan Synagogue and the Jewish religious community of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. []

Infobox Russian city



CityDay=Last Saturday of May"Charter of the Municipal Formation of the Town of Birobidzhan", adopted on July 24, 1997, with subsequent amendments ]
FederalSubject=Jewish Autonomous Oblast
MunStatus=Urban okrug
InJurisdictionOf=Jewish Autonomous Oblast
AdmCtrOf=Jewish Autonomous Oblast
LeaderName=Alexander Vinnikov
Legislature=Town Duma
Charter=Charter of Birobidzhan
Event1=Urban-type settlement status
Event2=Town status

Birobidzhan today

The 2002 Census recorded the town as having a population of 77,250 (down from the 83,667 registered in the census of 1989). Birobidzhan is named for the two largest rivers in the autonomous oblast: the Bira and the Bidzhan, although only the Bira flows through the town, which lies to the east of the Bidzhan valley. Both rivers are tributaries of the Amur River. Visitors find the town surprisingly green. The chief economic activity is light industry.

Jewish and Yiddish culture in Birobidzhan

According to Rabbi Mordechai Scheiner, the Chief Rabbi of Birobidzhan and Chabad Lubavitch representative to the region, "Today one can enjoy the benefits of the Yiddish culture and not be afraid to return to their Jewish traditions. It's safe without any Anti-Semitism, and we plan to open the first Jewish day school here."Fact|date=April 2008 Mordechai Scheiner, an Israeli father of six, has been the rabbi in Birobidzhan for the last five years. He is also the host of the Russian television show, Yiddishkeit. The town's synagogue opened in 2004. [ [ FJC | News | Far East Community Prepares for 70th Anniversary of Jewish Autonomous Republic ] ] Rabbi Scheiner says there are 4,000 Jews in Birobidzhan, just over 5 percent of the town's 75,000 population. [ [ FJC | News | From Tractors to Torah in Russia's Jewish Land ] ] The Birobidzhan Jewish Community was led by Lev Toitman, until his death in September, 2007. [ [ Far East Jewish Community Chairman Passes Away] Federation of Jewish Communities] .

Jewish culture was revived in Birobidzhan much earlier than elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Yiddish theaters opened in the 1970s. Yiddish and Jewish traditions have been required components in all public schools for almost fifteen years, taught not as Jewish exotica but as part of the region's national heritage. [ [ NCSJ - Profiles: Birobidzhan Jewish Community ] ] The Birobidzhan Synagogue, completed in 2004, is next to a complex housing Sunday School classrooms, a library, a museum, and administrative offices. The buildings were officially opened in 2004 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. [ [ FJC | News | Birobidzhan - New Rabbi, New Synagogue ] ] Concerning the Jewish Community of the oblast, Governor Nikolay Mikhaylovich Volkov has stated that he intends to "support every valuable initiative maintained by our local Jewish organizations." [ [ Governor Voices Support for Growing Far East Jewish Community] Federation of Jewish Communities] . In 2007, The First Birobidzhan International Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Culture was launched by Yiddish studies professor Boris Kotlerman of Bar-Ilan University. []

For the Chanukah celebration of 2007, officials of Birobidzhan in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast claimed to have built the world's largest menorah. [ [ Breaking News - JTA, Jewish & Israel News ] ]


The Birobidzhan Jewish National University works in cooperation with the local religious community. The university is unique in the Russian Far East. The basis of the training course is study of the Hebrew language, history and classic Jewish texts. [ [ Religion ] ] The town now boasts several state-run schools that teach Yiddish, as well as an Anglo-Yiddish faculty at its higher education college, a Yiddish school for religious instruction and a kindergarten. The five to seven year-olds spend two lessons a week learning to speak Yiddish, as well as being taught Jewish songs, dance and traditions. [ [ Kulanu: Birobidzhan: Soviety-era Jewish homeland struggles on ] ] The school menorah was created in 1991. It is a public school that offers a half-day Yiddish and Jewish curriculum for those parents who choose it. About half the school’s 120 pupils are enrolled in the Yiddish course. Many of them continue on to Public School No. 2, which offers the same half-day Yiddish/Jewish curriculum from first through 12th grade. Yiddish also is offered at Birobidzhan’s Pedagogical Institute, one of the only university-level Yiddish courses in the country. [ [ NCSJ - Profiles: Birobidzhan Jewish Community ] ] Today, the city’s 14 public schools must teach Yiddish and Jewish tradition.

"L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin!"

A documentary film, "L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin!" [ [ L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin!] ] on Stalin's creation of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast and its partial settlement by thousands of Russian and Yiddish-speaking Jews was released in 2003. As well as relating the history of the creation of the proposed Jewish homeland, the film features scenes of life in contemporary Birobidzhan and interviews with Jewish residents.

According to the NY Times, Stalin established the city to protect secular Jews. [ [ William J. Broad, "A Spy’s Path: Iowa to A-Bomb to Kremlin Honor", New York Times (November 12, 2007), p. A19] ]

ee also

*"In Search of Happiness", a documentary about modern day Birobidzhan
*Jews and Judaism in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast
* Stalin's Forgotten Zion: Birobidzhan and the Making of a Soviet Jewish Homeland: An Illustrated History, 1928-1996 (Paperback) by Robert Weinberg.
*Beit T'shuva
*Boris "Dov" Kaufman

ister Cities

*flagicon|Japan Niigata, Japan.
*flagicon|Oregon Beaverton, Oregon "'(United States).


External links

* [ "Birobidzhan from 1929 to 1931" - photo album (Digitized page images)] at US Library of Congress
* [ Atlas: Birobidzhan]
* []
* [ Birobidzhan government homepage] (official)
** [ Birobidzhan Photo Gallery] (official)
* [ Birobidzan, Stalin’s Forgotten Zion] by Jonas Bendiksen (Magnum Photos)
* [ The Jewish story about Birobidzhan (Birobidjan) 1928-1970] (from Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971 a.o., with fotos added)

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  • Birobidzhan — noun The capital city of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia …   Wiktionary

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