31 August 2010 - 21 Elul 5770 - כ"א אלול ה' אלפים תש"ע

By staff writers

On 7 May the Ohel Rachel Synagogue was officially reopened as place of worship after 60 years. More recently the building was used as a museum.

Rabbi Shalom Greenberg, Director of the Chabad- Lubavitch of Shanghai, says that Chinese government approval has ensured continued communal use of the building through at least the summer, thanks to the 2010 World Expo.

The government’s decision allows for Friday evening and Saturday morning Shabbat services to take place at the synagogue. “We all wish to extend our appreciation to the Chinese government for this tremendous gesture,” said Rabbi Greenberg.

“It is truly special that this beautiful synagogue will be in regular use after having been idle for so long; that we will be using it during the Expo is monumental,” he added.

The synagogue, built by tycoon Jacob Sassoon in 1920, was used until 1952, with the exception of two years during World War II.

Since 1999 the community has been allowed access to celebrate Jewish festivals. A year before, then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and First Lady Hillary Clinton visited the synagogue to promote awareness of the landmark and its history.

The synagogue was listed in 2002 on the World Monuments Watch list of endangered buildings. Ohel Rachel used to be the home of 30 Torah scrolls, could hold over 700 people, and was the centre of Jewish life in Shanghai for decades.

Chinese officials, diplomats, local dignitaries, Jewish leaders and member of the Jewish community were on hand at the offi cial re-opening, gathered in the courtyard adjacent to the synagogue.

The opening ceremony was presided over by Rabbi Greenberg and Maurice Ohana, Shanghai’s Jewish community president. Ohana’s daughter got married at the synagogue in 2008, the community’s first kosher wedding in six decades.

Rabbi Shlomo Aouizrat offered a prayer followed by Rabbi Shalom Greenberg who thanked the Chinese government on behalf of the Jewish community. Ohana presented awards to Chinese offi cials who made it possible for Jewish life to return to Ohel Rachel.

Local Jewish children recited biblical verses and Israel Consul General to Shanghai, Jackie Eldan spoke to attendees about his family’s ties to the Sassoon family. Eldan had the honour of cutting the ribbon in front of the synagogue’s entrance.

Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Mendy Alevsky, who arrived last month with his wife Sara, will help the Jewish centre deal with the requests of patrons in need of kosher food and other services.

Jewish Times Asia recently reported in the May 2010 issue, on the first wedding at Shanghai’s other synagogue Ohel Moshe in 60 years, between Ran and Osnat Fridman.

(Issue June 2010)

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