Today, between approximately 3,300 Jews live in Kazakhstan. They are mostly Russian-speaking and identify with Russian culture. Approximately 2,000 are Bukharian and Tat (Mountain Jews). Almaty is the main Jewish centre of the country. Smaller Jewish communities are spread out across this large country in places such as Karaganda, Chimket, Astana, Semiplatinsk, Kokchetav, Dzhamboul, Aktyubinsk, Petropavlovsk and several villages.
The Kazakh Jewish community is stable and organized. More than 20 Jewish organizations, both secular and religious, currently work to improve Jewish religious and cultural life. The Kazakh affiliate of the World Jewish Congress is the Jewish National Organizations of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Jews are believed to have arrived at the territory of modern Kazakhstan in the Middle Ages as merchants travelling the Silk Road. A Jewish presence in the city of Turkestan dates back to the 15th century, when there is mention of a synagogue there. One of the first documentary evidence of the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Kazakhstan dates from 1825 when it was recorded that 12 individuals “of the Judaic faith” lived in the Semipalatinsk region.
In Soviet times the legal Jewish institutional setting consisted of the functioning synagogues in Alma-Ata, Chimkent, Turkestan, and Kyzylorda. The Jewish population grew significantly in the 1930’s and 1940’s through migration from the former Pale of Settlement, and mass evacuations in 1941- 1942, when over 100,000 Jews from the European part of the USSR were brought to Kazakhstan. The number of Jews living in Kazakhstan grew from 3,600 in 1936, to 19,200 in 1939; and to 28,000 in 1959.
The Jewish population of Kazakhstan is difficult to estimate. Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated that the Jewish community of Kazakhstan numbered between 2,900 and 6,500 as of 2009. (The estimates of local Jewish organizations are substantially higher.) Today, about 2,000 Kazakh Jews are Bukharian and Juhuro Mountain Jews. There are synagogues and large Jewish communities in Almaty, where there are 1,000 Jews, and in Astana and Pavlodar. Smaller communities are in Karaganda, Chimkent, Semey, Kokchetav, Dzhambul, Uralsk, Aktyubinsk, and Petropavlovsk.
There are synagogues in Almaty and in Chimkent, as well as a Jewish library in Almaty.
There are more than 11 schools with some 650 students in 11 different communities.
The Jewish Agency for Israel sponsors a moadon (youth center) in several cities, the largest in Almaty. It is a popular hangout for Jewish teens and provides instruction in Jewish culture, history and Hebrew.
Israel and Kazakhstan have maintained full diplomatic relations since 1992.
Embassy of Israel
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