Skip To Content
Fast Forward

Searching For Kosher Food Where The Soviets Made A Jewish State

Observant Jews in far-flung locales face difficulty in getting kosher food, but perhaps nowhere is the challenge more acute than in Siberia’s Birobidzhan region, where a community of a few thousand — the remnant of a failed Soviet experiment in creating a Jewish mini-state – is trying to procure a steady supply of kosher meat and cheese.

“Once we get kosher food, it will be Jewish heaven,” Rabbi Eli Riss, the Chabad-affiliated rabbi who helms the Birobidzhan community, told the Wall Street Journal. “A cold one but heaven all the same.” Under the rabbi’s plan, kosher products will soon be transported via train from Moscow to the frozen enclave, to be sold in a butcher shop to be set up by a local Jewish businesswoman.

Birodbidzhan was established as a Jewish proto-state, with Yiddish as its official language, in the 1930’s’ as part of the Soviet Union’s policy then of encouraging national minorities to express their culture. The Jewish population peaked in the tends of thousands, before declining, as a result of the harsh climate and government persecution.

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at [email protected] or on Twitter @DanielJSolomon

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.