The government did not want to make provision for rabbis in the army and did not allow the Jewish community to do this. In order to perform religious rites, rabbis were elected from among the soldiers. Soldiers were also the first rabbis of small isolated Jewish communities in St. Petersburg. Even though the Jewish education of such rabbis was not sufficient, they did know the rituals and texts of prayers. In 1859, a retired St. Petersburg policeman named Iossel Ioff was for the first time officially appointed assistant to the city rabbi on recommendation of the St. Petersburg governor-general, Count Suvorov. In some cases rabbi soldiers were even recommended for awards for their activity.
Shmuilo Mordukhovich, a retired workman of the 5th working team based in Kronshtadt, was recommended for an award in connection with having volunteered as a rabbi for his fellow soldiers for twenty six years.
The recommendation for the award contained information about his awards and penalties. Decorated with a memorial bronze medal for defending Kronshtadt during the Crimean war, Mordukhovich was three times arrested on charges of unauthorized absence, theft of a public saw and sailcloth and again theft of sailcloth. His involvement in the thefts was not proven but he twice "fell under strong suspicion". According to the next entry in this document, Mordukhovich was recommended for the "silver medal with inscription "For Zeal" to be worn on the St. Stanislav ribbon" in a button-hole. A well-deserved award!
The silver medal "For Zeal"