GERY, a small group of ethnic Russians who adhere to Judaism. As a separate religious group the Gery emerged in the early 19th century from the sect of the Subbotniki (Sabbatarians) and in the late 19th–early 20th centuries adopted Orthodox Judaism. The Gery strive to observe all the commandments of the Jewish religion and to merge totally with Jews of Jewish ethnic origin, including by marriage. Many Gery sent their children to *yeshivot. They lived scattered through many districts of Russia (Astrakhan, Saratov, Tambov, Voronezh) on the Don, in the Kuban, in the northern Caucasus and Trans-caucasus, and in Siberia where they were sent as exiles. They were persecuted by the czarist government and the Russian Orthodox Church which considered "Judaizing" sects especially dangerous. Cases are known of Jews serving the Gery as rabbis, ritual slaughterers, and teachers. Important roles in their religious education were played by an anonymous Jewish distiller from Tambov district who lived among the Gery from 1805 and in the 1880s by a Lithuanian Jew, David Teitelbaum. Many Gery families settled in the land of Israel in the 19th century, particulary in Galilee (Yesud ha-Ma'alah, Bet-Gan, etc.) and within two to three generations were completely assimilated into the surrounding Jewish populations. After the Russian proclamation of the freedom of religion in 1905, the Gery, now known as "sabbatarians of the Jewish faith," gained the right to legal recognition of their communities and the right to build synagogues (e.g., at Stantsiya Zima in the Irkutsk district, Tiflis). Although the number of Gery has significantly declined, they still continue to exist (in the Voronezh district, on the Don, in the northern Caucasus, and elsewhere).
In Israel the Gery are recognized as Jews both from the point of view of Halakhah and by the laws of the state. Many Gery in the Soviet Union are actively fighting for emigration to Israel and a number of Gery families left for Israel between 1971 and 1980. Twenty families from the village of Il'inka, Talov county, Voronezh district, who moved to Israel in 1973–76 evidently have a Gery background.
[Shorter Jewish Encylopaedia in Russian]
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.