Subbotnik Jews

The Subbotniks were peasants in southern Russia who embraced Jewish practice and converted to Judaism more than 200 years ago under the Czarist regime.

They were referred to by the term “Subbotniks” because of their love of the Subbota, which is Russian for Sabbath.

In the early 19th century, Czar Alexander I expelled them from their homes and deported them to the far reaches of the empire as punishment for their adoption of Judaism.

They were later ruthlessly persecuted by the Communists, and thousands of them were murdered by the Germans after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II.

There are still an estimated 15,000 Subbotnik Jews living primarily in southern Russia and in Siberia, most of whom wish to return to the traditions of their ancestors and emigrate to Israel.

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Sending Rabbis

Shavei Israel sent rabbis to the Subbotnik communities in Siberia in order to enable them to continue to participate in growing and strengthening their communal experiences.


One of main activities initiated Shavei Israel is gaining recognition for the community through lobbying the various state institutions, from the Knesset up to the government itself – ministers and the Premier. This involves explanations about the Subbotniks; why they are worthy of getting Aliya approval under the Law of Return and why they should not be discriminated against.

Appealing to the High Court of Justice

Shavei Israel appealed to the High Court of Justice so that those Subbotniks who did not get Aliya approval (because their spouse did not belong to the community) receive them and make Aliya to Israel under the Law of Return, just like any other Jew.

The connection with the community in Russia

Shavei Israel maintains a continuous and intensive connection with members of the Subbotnik community in Russia. Shavei Israel assigns to its contacts with this community the highest importance in particular, alongside many others, in order to assist them with their needs.

The connection with the community in Israel

Shavei Israel maintains a continuous and intensive connection with members of the Jewish Subbotnik community who made Aliya to Israel. The organization extends them a helping hand in all concerning their absorption in our country, connecting with a new society, in their studies and so forth; with everything that they need, each one in accordance with his personal situation.