Historic home to Khazars and Cantonists, Astrakhan gets a mikvah

Chabad emissaries Rabbi Yisroel and Deborah Melamed came to revive community that had suffered decades of Soviet oppression.

Mordechai Sones ,

Mikveh
Mikveh
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Astrakhan was known to the rabbis of the Talmud, who referred to the “salt of Astrakhan” by name, noting that it was coarser than the “salt of Sodom,” common in the Holy Land (Beitza 39a).

The first record of Jews living in the Russian region of Astrakhan dates back to the mid-10th century. The Jewish community at the time was believed to be Khazars, a tribe of warriors who had converted to Judaism centuries beforehand.

lake Baskunchak, Astrakhan, Russia
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The more recent Jewish community of Astrakhan developed in the 19th century by the “Cantonists”, Jewish boys who had been forced into the Russian Imperial army following which they were granted rights to settle there.

Since 2010, the 1,500 Jews of Astrakhan have been served by Chabad emissaries Rabbi Yisroel and Deborah Melamed, who came to revive a community that had suffered decades of Soviet oppression. Jewish knowledge and observance has been on the rise, and a beautiful new mikvah was recently inaugurated on the synagogue complex.

Big Bogdo Mountain, Astrakhan
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