The Jewish of Kazakstan
There are about 15,000 Jews living in Kazakstan. Most of them live in the capital, Almaty, but a significant number dwell in other cities across Kazakstan. Russian is their primary language; only the older generation continues to speak the traditional Yiddish language. Kazakstan Jews are known for improving their society; they are intelligent and motivated to learn, and they exemplify high moral standards.
Eastern European Jews arrived in Russian-controlled territories around the tenth century A.D. They first settled in and near Kiev in the Ukraine. In later centuries, they spread across the Russian empire, some migrating to present-day Kazakstan as soldiers. During and after World War II, many other Jews fled Eastern Europe and settled in the region. Today the Jews' language, culture, and religion differ greatly from those of their Kazak neighbors. The Jews see themselves first as Jews and second as citizens of Kazakstan.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Jews are often discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens in predominantly Muslim Kazakstan. For example, many universities deny entrance to Jews and suppress the Jewish culture and religion. Kazakstan Jews have retained a strong Jewish identity, but they have begun to adopt Kazak customs and culture to avoid persecution
The majority of Jewish men are engineers, bureaucrats, or business managers. Women are sometimes employed as teachers and secretaries. Most live in concrete apartments owned by the government. Some live in small houses built of stone. Wealthier families may live in two story stone houses. The furnishings in their homes are very simple, but many have computers and fax machines.
Their diet includes bread, potatoes, rice, cheese, and beef. They also enjoy traditional Kazak dishes such as "besh barmak" which consists of noodles and thinly sliced beef boiled in broth.
Parents prefer that their children choose another Jew as a spouse, but children sometimes marry Kazaks to escape the stigma associated with being Jewish. Most Jews follow some traditional wedding customs. For example, the wedding ceremony is conducted under a canopy and the couple finalizes the ceremony by smashing a wine glass. Other parts of the ceremony follow secular and Russian patterns.
Jewish families are very close. When possible, they live as extended families. If enough space is available, newly married couples will live with the parents of either spouse.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Kazakstan Jews practice Judaism in their homes. Some of them follow Jewish dietary laws, and many celebrate Jewish festivals such as Passover, Yom Kippur, and Hanukkah. Traditionally, they observed the Sabbath, but today many younger Jews no longer acknowledge it. There are very few synagogues, and even if one is nearby, the Jews do not usually go: they attempt to hide their Jewish identity in public. Instead they meet in small groups in their homes.
What Are Their Needs?
To avoid persecution, Kazakstan Jews have had to hide not only their Jewish identity, but also their ethnicity. They have had to suppress their culture, customs, and language. Many younger Jews have begun to emigrate to Israel or the United States in an attempt to escape the situation in Kazakstan.
Kazakstan's economy is very unstable, and the people are plagued by high prices, food shortages, and unemployment. All Kazaks are forced to wait in long lines in grocery stores. Health care, sanitation, communication, and transportation are very poor. In addition, Kazakstan is plagued by air and water pollution.
Kazak Jews are even more oppressed spiritually than they are physically. Although the Bible and the Jesus film are available in their language, and Christian radio broadcasts exist in Russian, there are no known Christians among Kazakstan Jews.
- Pray that the Kazakstan Jews would be free to live as Jews without having to hide their identity for fear of persecution.
- Pray against the spirit of anti-Semitism in Kazakstan.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Pray that the Jesus film would be shown among the people and that their hearts would be open to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Kazakstan Jews through dreams and visions.
- Pray that God will give the believers of Kazakstan boldness to share Jesus with the Jews.
- Take authority over the strongholds of fear and rejection that are keeping the Kazakstan Jews bound.
- Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Kazakstan Jews by the year 2000.
See also the following cluster profile:
The Jews of Europe.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Jewish
- Country: Kazakstan
- Their language: Yidish
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 0%
- Church members: 0
- Scriptures in their own language: Bible
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 7,800 (40%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 12,100 (60%)
- Country: Kazakstan
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 23
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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