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Life / Arts & Heritage Print this Article 
Harbin synagogue to be renovated””
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2004-08-02 10:11
The Jewish New Synagogue in the capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province will be renovated "back to its original appearance."

Once the largest synagogue in Northeast China, covering an area of more than 1,230 square metres and being able to accommodate up to 800 worshipers, it has not been used since the Jewish people left the city in the 1950s.

Harbin once had the largest Jewish population in the Far East. In the late 19th and early 20th century, it was the largest political, economic and cultural centre for Jewish people in the region.

Built in 1921, the synagogue was not only an important place of religious observance and community education for Harbin's Jews, but was also a public library.

The synagogue was closed after the city's Jewish people left in the 1950s, only re-opening in the 1990s, when it was used as a club for the local Public Security Bureau, before being shut down again in 1996 for unknown reasons.

The Harbin municipal government will shoulder part of the synagogue's reconstruction costs and a foundation is likely to be established to raise the remaining amount.

Reconstruction is expected to be completed within this year.

A Construction and Planning Bureau official said the synagogue would become a Jewish Museum of History and Culture.

This year, an international symposium on the history and culture of Harbin's Jews will be held in Harbin from August 30 to September 2, organized by the Jewish Research Centre of Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences and the China-Israel Friendship Association.

A large-scale exhibition called "Jews in Harbin" will be held during the symposium to show relics left by Jewish people who had lived in Harbin.

"Many scholars of Jewish culture from home and abroad as well as Jewish people who had once lived in China will be here for this event," said Qu Wei, president of the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.

Most of Harbin's Jews had moved from Russia to build the Far East railway.

The construction of a railway linking Vladivostok and Harbin attracted about 60,000 Jews to Northeast China from Russia at the end of 19th century.

According to Qu Wei, local Jews made great contributions to the development and prosperity of Harbin over the past century.

Priceless Jewish architecture can be seen everywhere in Harbin, including synagogues, banks, schools and shops built in the early 20th century.

Near the synagogue is a unique-style Jewish middle school. Another example of Jewish-style architecture, the Harbin Huangshan Jewish Cemetery, located in the city's suburbs, is the largest and the best-preserved cemetery in the Far East. It is the resting place for over 500 Harbin Jews. Last month, Ehud Olmert, Israel's deputy prime minister, paid respects to his grandfather who is buried in the cemetery.

This historical architecture is all on the city's list of protected landmarks.

Each year, many descendants of Harbin Jews from all over the world came back to seek their roots.

Source:China Daily 
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