The prayer meetings
In the first winter of the siege, prayer meetings in apartments stopped. There is reliable information about only one operating minyan. In the winter of 1941-1942, in the cellar of the right wing of the Choral Synagogue, in a small room, prayer meetings took place every day. There was little stove in the room. A narrow path led to the cellar and piles of corpses lay to the right of the path. The elderly men who gathered for prayer gave daily reports of the latest deaths among their number; it became a common event. The corpses of Jews that lay near the Synagogue were transported to Preobrazhenskoye Cemetery. Grave-diggers received wages in ration cards for bread. Those graves are called "bread graves" even today. After the war, the burial sites were rearranged into large common graves. Traditional families continued celebrating the Sabbath. It was impossible, however, to obtain wine and there was nothing with which to bake a Sabbath khalla, so they laid Kiddush on a piece of a bread ration.
By the spring of 1942, the prayer meetings were taking place once again in some apartments. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, when the leadership of the Party launched an unprecedented anti-semitic campaign using such slogans as "fighting against cosmopolitanism" and "struggling against the doctor-saboteurs", when the mere fact of being a Jew was enough to warrant dismissal or even arrest, the Plenipotentiary for the Affairs of Religions and the Church reported eight prayer meetings in private apartments. The reports contained information on the hosts and the addresses of those apartments. Mention was made that the prayer meetings took place regularly.
The hosts in those apartments faced administrative persecution; they were even deported from Leningrad and forbidden to live closer than 100 km to the city. The legal justification for this was that they used their apartments to earn income. Nobody in the administration bothered to look for proof that the accused had been paid for the use of their apartments. In any case, the statute in question did not apply to the residents of such apartments, who were invalids. Meanwhile, all petitions to the authorities to establish a prayer house were turned down. There was a joke that when a group of old Jews asked the Plenipotentiary for Religious Affairs to allow the establishment of a prayer house, arguing that it was difficult for them to reach the Choral Synagogue on foot, he answered that he could not allow it, but that he could help them. His words were, "tell the believers that Plenipotentiary Vasilyev allows them to take a tram every Saturday".