Thousands of people gathered at a hall in the Kremlin for the Federation of Jewish Communities annual awards ceremony and celebration of those who have made significant contributions to Jewish life in the former Soviet Union.

Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, opened the Dec. 17 ceremony by calling on audience members to resolve to increase in the observance of the Torah and Jewish traditions, while Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, one of this year’s eleven winners, told the crowd that when he when he was imprisoned in Siberia 25 years ago, he could only dream of one day standing as a proud Jew in the Kremlin.

Other honorees included Aron Bielski, who saved hundreds of fellow Jews as a partisan fighter during World War II; Rabbi Alexander Feigin, who recently translated the Torah and the commentary of Rashi into Russian; Igor Melzer, the chairman of the Jewish Community of Irkutsk who pushed for the opening of the city’s historic synagogue; and Maj. Gen. Alexander Protopopov, who helped established the country’s first prison-based synagogue.


Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar presides over the annual Federation of Jewish Communities awards ceremony at the Kremlin.


Rabbi Alexander Feigin was honored for his translation of the Torah and Rashi’s commentary into Russian.


Maj. Gen. Alexander Protopopov helped establish the country’s first prison-based synagogue.


Aron Bielski saved hundreds of fellow Jews as a partisan fighter during World War II.


Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky told the crowd that when he was imprisoned 25 years ago, he could only dream of one day standing as a proud Jew in the Kremlin.


A dance troupe entertains the audience.


The Dec. 17 event also featured a performance by famed singers Dudu Fisher, left, and Avraham Fried.