Feb. - Oct. 1917
The overthrow of the tsarist government and the decree on abolition of all ethnic and religious discrimination were welcomed by the Jews of Petrograd with enthusiasm. The decree was promulgated on the eve of Passover and during the Passover service in the choral synagogue rabbi Moisei Aizenshtadt dedicated his sermon to this event. At the proposal of rabbis Aizenshtadt and David Katzenelenbogen, the prayer "Haleil" was read in all Petrograd synagogues on the first day of Passover, contrary to tradition. On March 24th the Jewish delegation, headed by Fridman and Gruzenberg, hailed the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. On March 22nd at a Jewish public meeting in Petrograd, Vinaver advocated marking the March 20th law by creating of a museum and cultural center for all ethnic communities of the city.
Legal equality did not guarantee a peaceful and secure life. The first Jewish pogroms occurred in Petrograd in 1917. Pogrom agitation started in spring-summer and military defeats, combined with a food crisis, contributed to their success. Four pogroms took place in August, leaving several people dead (on Vitebskaya Street, at Andreyevsky marketplace, near the Church of the Archangel Michael and near Sennaya Square). All of these pogroms were provoked by deliveries of goods from Jewish stores for the army. The population and soldiers of the garrison took this as concealment of goods by Jews. The police unsuccessfully tried to stop the mob led by the instigators. The Jewish press published a proposal for creating a Ministry of Nationalities to be in charge of interethnic relations.
Liberated from external oppression, the Jewish community of Petrograd faced greater controversies within, as its former leaders lost their influence. Elections to the Synagogue Maintenance Board ended in failure: six newly elected members resigned and four did not receive the required absolute majority of votes. In spring 1917 the question of forming a single Jewish community of Petrograd was raised. It was heatedly debated whether the community should be religious or cultural, whether converted Jews should be admitted, and how to determine affiliation with the community. On September 10th, 1917 the "Rules for Election of the Public Council for the Single Petrograd Jewish Community" were approved. They provided for direct, secret and universal voting, for both men and women over twenty.
Many Jewish organizations held congresses in Petrograd in the spring and fall of 1917, including congresses of Jewish teachers, actors, and merchants. The most significant of these was the 7th All-Russian Congress of Zionists, the 3rd All-Russian Congress of "Poalei Tzion", as well as the All-Russian Jewish Conference, which was to develop the program of the future All-Russian Jewish Congress. This Congress was to resolve the question about the future of Jews in Russia and to work out a plan for Jewish national autonomy. At first the Congress' decisions were tied to the coming official session, but later it was decided that the national-cultural autonomy of the Jews did not affect the cohesiveness of Russia and thus could be affirmed by a Jewish congress outside the official session. Election of delegates to the Congress was to take place on December 3rd through December 5th.
The first lines of the Prayer "Haleil". From a Passover Hagada