Mr. Levinthal Alexander, the official government appointee to Birobidzhan, visited with Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar in Moscow last week. Accompanied by Chabad emissary and Birobidzhan’s rabbi, Eliyahu Reiss, Alexander was led on a tour of the Marina Roscha Jewish Center in Moscow and its social service facilities.
Today, some 4,000 Jews live Birobidzhan, the Jewish autonomous oblast established in1931 by Stalin in Russia’s Far East. During their visit, Mr. Alexander confirmed that construction would soon begin on a mikveh—the first in Birobidzhan.
In the course of his visit, Mr. Alexander also wrapped tefillin. An emotional first for the Kremlin’s Jewish appointee, it represented the bar mitzvah rite of passage that he didn’t have at age 13.