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To Russian Jews the synagogue was the center of religion and religion was the most important thing in their lives The rabbi was their leader they came to him with every problem they had Jews were poor but they all gave tzedakah It was said that even the poorest Jews could find someone poorer to help and give money to According to the Jewish religion tzedakah is one of the most important mitzvahs you can do The same could be said about the Jewish holidays They were observed very strictly but Shabbat was the most welcomed In order to teach the importance of Jewish law they started their own schools their own courts of law and their own burial societies even though there were pogroms religious persecution forced the Jews to create stronger communities and made them more united In the beginning of the 1800s Alexander I ruled Russia He promised the Jews that they could become farmers could live in two districts and could buy unoccupied land Although Alexander was kind and helped the Jews the tax they were forced to pay stayed before he died in 1825 the Jewish situation became hard for them to bare They lived in poverty in small and crowded places and were oppressed For hundreds of years Jews lived these ways in two communities - the ghetto and the shtetl To keep out thieves and rioters from coming in they built walls around their section of town When they did this the government and churches got an idea they would use the walls that the Jews built to lock them in These walls were located near a foundry that made cannons so they named it ghetto which means foundry They would close the gates every night and the Jews would be locked in until daybreak The word of the ghettos quickly spread soon there were ghettos all over Europe The
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