Some exiles went to Vilna, where there was no expulsion. One rabbi described the reaction of the Vilna community to their arrival, “It was the first day of Shavuot and the Jews of Vilna went to synagogue not knowing that the first train with all those expelled was already arriving at Novo-Vileika … Notwithstanding that it was a holy day, meeting places where quickly organized and each Jewish family of Vilna was required to bring something edible … In the course of two hours, thousands of kilograms of bread, sugar, meat, cheese, eggs, boiled meat and herring were collected.”
The expulsion decree did not last. Soon after, Nikolai Nikolayevich, informed the military authorities that mass expulsions of Jews were no longer desired since the economy was damaged as a result. He proposed that Jews should be expelled only from one place at a time, where it was deemed “necessary.”
The long-term impact of the expulsion was significant. With the dismantling of Jewish communities, the religious life of Russian Jewry markedly declined. The religious institutions that are the lifeline of the community such as the cheder, the mikveh, the synagogue, and the yeshiva were diminished by the massive sudden dislodging of Lithuanian Jewry. Jewish life in Russia would never be the same.
Due to the severity of the expulsions, the Pale Settlement which forcibly confined Russia’s Jews since the end of the 18th century officially ended with a decree in August 1915 allowing Jews to move to Eastern Russia. The intention was not to free the Jews from the confinement of the Pale but to keep them out of the proximity of the war front due to irrational suspicions of Jewish disloyalty.
Shavuot 1915 marked the times of tragedy and challenge faced by Jewry. In one small vacant Lithuanian Synagogue on the first day of Shavuot, Jewish refugees had gathered to pray, a rabbi among the group arose and stood before the shocked and traumatized group and offered the following brief consoling words. “We have faced other difficulties before. Someday, this too shall pass. Now, let us say the Hallel prayers.”