Jews Celebrate Passover in Soviet Russia Hoping for Hitler’s Defeat
Menu JTA Search

Jews Celebrate Passover in Soviet Russia Hoping for Hitler’s Defeat

Download PDF for this date

Although a large number of Moscow Jews were evacuated to safety in Uzbekistan in the days when the Nazi armies were near the gets of the Soviet capital, the Moscow Choral Synagogue was crowded this Passover week with Jewish men and women, the majority of them parents who have children at the front fighting for victory over Hitler.

In the narrow street which leads to the synagogue, which is the largest in Soviet Russia, groups of Jews could be seen every morning this week on their way to the huge synagogue building which dominates the street. Inside the synagogue hundreds of Jews were delivering their usual Passover prayers dominated, however, by one desire – the desire for Soviet victory over the Nazi hordes. An aged Jew among them attracted my special attention by his fervent praying. I waited until he finished his prayers and them decided to interview him.

“How does it feel after Passover prayers?” I asked.

The Jew – I later learned that his name was Israel Ziskind, a bookkeeper gave me a mild fatherly look. “This,” he said, “is no ordinary Passover, my son. This is a wartime Passover. All the Passover prayers which I have been saying ever since childhood are today combined in my heart and soul into one prayer. The prayer for the victory of the Soviet troops. The prayer for the defeat of Nazism. The prayer for which three of my sons are now fighting on the Soviet front. This was my prayer in the synagogue, this was also my prayer during the Seder. When I broke my matzoth I was thinking not only of the Pharaoh of ancient Egypt, but also of the modern bloodthirsty Pharaoh who will end up even worse than his predecessor because I am certain that the sea will spit out Hitler’s body and the earth will reject it.

“Yes,” the old Jew continued, “my prayers today were prayers for victory, prayers for an eleventh plague to smite the enemy of nations. At the same time I feel happy this Passover over the fact that not all of my people are under the Germany of today which is worse than the Egypt of thousands of years ago, and that millions of Jews are living in the U.S.S.R. where they enjoy equality with all other citizens. I am also proud of the fact that my children are among the defenders of our country.”


Reports reaching Moscow from Tashkent state that tens of thousands of Jews celebrated Passover in Samarkand, Tashkent, Alma-Ata and other cities in Uzbekistan where Seders were held for the first time by European Jews, including Jews from Poland.

One of the reports tells the dramatic story of a wonder-rabbi who was evacuated to Uzbekistan from a small town in the Ukraine before the Nazis occupied the town. On the road he was especially impressed by the sympathetic treatment he received from Red Army soldiers. When reaching Uzbekistan he asked for a copy of the Soviet constitution and had the paragraphs dealing with freedom of religion translated to him. On Passover night, during the Seder, he spoke to his followers of the Constitution and added: “This book is important not only because our equality is guaranteed there in printed words, but also because its text is printed on the heart of every Soviet soldier.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund