Synagogues on wheels goes deep into Russia

Known in Russia as ‘mitzvah tanks’, traveling synagogues make house calls to homes of Jews who are unable leave home for medical reasons.



Jewish activists have taken three synagogues on wheels on a journey into Siberia and central Russia.

A Mitzvah Tank at the entrance of the Moscow Jewish community center, June 2013.

A Mitzvah Tank at the entrance of the Moscow Jewish community center, Chabad Lubavitch, June 2013. – Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

The activists, among them sons of emissaries to Russia for the Chabad movement, are driving three camper vehicles into the Russian outback along three different routes that will take them through dozens of cities over the next three weeks, according to the official website of the Chabad movement.

The so-called mitzvah tanks typically park for a day or two in cities with Jewish communities, according to the rabbi of the Siberian city of Tomsk, Levi Kaminetsky.

He said a synagogue on wheels that left from Moscow on July 18 arrived last week in Tomsk, which has a synagogue and a Jewish community of a few hundred people. In Tomsk, the three crew members of the synagogue on wheels made house calls to the homes of Jews who cannot leave home for medical reasons.

“It makes people feel that someone is thinking of them, that someone has driven all the way out here to meet them, and that’s something beautiful and powerful,” Kaminetsky told JTA.

It is the second trek for the mitzvah tanks into the Russian interior; the first took place last year.

One of the campers also arrived in Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia, where Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Zalman Zaklas will be opening a new synagogue and Jewish community center in a month.


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