Minsk was once a thriving and vibrant Jewish centre in Europe and its history goes back centuries. Today in Minsk there is emerging Jewish life – and it is our mission not only to bring the history into focus, but also to show that there is Jewish activity in Minsk today and help it to grow and revive.
Here is a heartwarming story to fill you with hope. Out of our dark history from the time when we were slaves in Egypt and repeatedly across the centuries – there come wonderful stories such as this…
The week before Pesach, members of two communities in Minsk came together to bake Matzah – an activity that has not taken place for many, many years. A group of 20 people took the initiative to come together to make the matzah. Community members with their families came along and joined in – helping, supporting or simply watching the matzah baking. For some it evoked long forgotten memories as the oldest members of the community tearfully recalled how their parents and grandparents had baked matzah in their childhood. The tradition of baking matzah before Pesach existed for a long time among the Minsk communities, but this sadly disappeared over time. The ravages of dark history impacted the Jewish community beyond measure. Holocaust caused untold losses and for the survivors religious repressions during the communist years meant that it was hard to continue with rituals and traditions. In 1977 there was even a ban on bringing Matzah into the Soviet Union – click here for the article. And of course – the whole process of Matzah making requires a great deal of effort. But this year, members of the Lech-Lecha youth community in Minsk decided to revive the tradition and went to great pains to prepare for it in advance to make sure it would be a success.
They had to find the appropriate grain (only wheat flour is acceptable), grind it , build a tunnel kiln themselves and find a venue. The community members managed it all. They purchased kosher wheat grain, found a mill, built a kiln, and found a man who provided his private property where they could locate a caravan with the constructed kiln. It is believed that kosher matzah must be made in 18 minutes, counting from the moment the flour first comes into contact with water. Community members managed to bake matzah on average in 15-16 minutes.
All the baked matzah was shared among the members of the Minsk communities, even those who didn’t take part in the baking itself.
Take a step back in time for a glimpse of old Jewish Minsk – click here.