It was Simchat Torah night at 3 a.m. The boisterous dancing of hundreds of Jews on the street in front of the Marina Roscha Synagogue in Moscow had reached a feverish pitch. The circles of dancers whirled around and around the Torah scrolls which were being held in a close embrace by a few of the dancers.

Eight hours earlier, young college students had greeted the crowds that converged on the Jewish community center as the celebration began. There were Jews from all walks of life: chassidic and secular, Sephardic and Ahkenazic. Now, their spirits high from a marathon of celebrating, they suddenly noticed a police car approaching the street where they danced between towering buildings. But there was no fear. This wasn’t Moscow of the Communist era, when Jews gathered in apartments, removed their shoes and danced in their socks so that the neighbors wouldn’t hear. It was 2013, and there was no sense of anxiety. As the crowd parted for a moment to allow the patrol car to snake through the dancers, the police inside the car burst into smiles. They too were touched by the spirit of the holiday.

This is the new Jewish community of Russia. The small core of Jews that held steadfast to tradition during the Communist era has either passed on or emigrated abroad. Today, young people fill the synagogues alongside the nouveau riche. On that Simchat Torah night in 2013, over a dozen billionaires danced in the synagogue with a hundreds of others as their bodyguards congregated on the street below, waiting for their charges. Russian oligarchs swung in circles with chassidim and college students. Jews from the remote regions of Azerbaijan who had migrated westward danced with attorneys and doctors from Moscow.

At the center of the concentric circles was Russia’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar—Italian born, full of chassidic vigor, and as comfortable with an elderly Russian babushka as with a billionaire. A confidant of Russia’s President Putin, Rabbi Lazar has inspired Russian Jews with a new vision that has led to a rebirth of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union (FSU). As we walked home together at 4 a.m., after the dancing, Rabbi Lazar told me how successful the evening had been. He was excited about those who had agreed to take on more Jewish observance that night: “Tonight three men agreed to a do a brit (circumcision) and four agreed to start putting on tefillin daily,” he told me.

Thirty years ago, the Russian Jewish elite would have congregated outside synagogues on Simchat Torah in a once-a-year open display of their Judaism, expressing a nostalgic connection to the traditions of the past. Today, these same oligarchs are propelling Jewish destiny forward in the FSU, investing their dollars in synagogues and schools, building a vital Jewish community.

Other communities in Europe have a sense of anxiety about their future, worried about growing anti-Semitism and hostility to Israel. But Russian Jews feel very differently. There is a new-found optimism in Russia about Jewish life, more reflective of the American experience than of the European one. Russian Jews are maturing into their own sense of community, becoming independent from the Jewish American community’s largesse to chart their own unique course. Simchat Torah in Russia is no longer about Jews yearning for connection to the past. It’s about a community claiming its own future.