Kazakhstan has some 3500 Jews. Since the fall of Communism, many of the younger Jews have left the country, looking for better opportunities elsewhere. Those who remain are, for the most part, older and unable to leave. They live in dire poverty; the average salary is only $300 a month.

We arrived in Astana, the capital, where we stayed with the local Chabad emissaries overnight. The next morning, loaded with supplies for the Seder, we took an eight-hour train ride to our destination in Petropavlovsk.

When we arrived at the house we’d be staying in, we put mezuzahs on the doors. Later, some of the community members told us that they felt differently in the room with the mezuzahs, and they asked us to send mezuzahs to them when we got back to America.

Thirty people joined us for Seder. While on the first night guests slowly began to slip out as the evening progressed, with the last one leaving at 12:30a.m., on the second night people were glued to their seats, having tasted what the Seder was like the night before. No one wanted leave; many of them stayed past midnight.

At the end of the Passover, a 17-year-old girl came over to thank us for making the Sedarim. She described her difficulty living Kazakhstan with her grandmother, and spoke of her desire to grow as a Jew. We are currently searching for funding and a program that would best suit her needs.

When it was time to leave, several of the people we’d met came to our house to take a picture with us. They thanked us for coming and expressed their hope that we would come back again.

Petropavlovsk is ripe for a growing Chabad presence. The community told us that they get some 60-200 people on Rosh Hashanah, but no one knows how to blow the shofar properly. Hopefully in the years to come, this need can be addressed.