Ohel Rachel Synagogue Re-Opens for Jewish services in Shanghai China
The most historic and important Jewish landmark in Shanghai was returned to the Jewish community in early May, 2010.
Ohel Rachel Synagogue, established 1920, a beautiful and historic building, was in service until 1949. Then, for 60 years the synagogue sat almost idle. Ohel Rachel was the first of seven synagogues built in Shanghai, and only one of two still standing. The other, the Ohel Moishe Synagogue located in Hong Kou district, hosts a museum dedicated to the history of the Jewish experience in Shanghai.
Ohel Rachel was built by Jacob Sassoon and named for his wife Rachel. The Sassoon family built many of Shanghai's landmarks: the Peace Hotel, Grosvenor House, the Metropole. But when the Jewish community ebbed, Ohel Rachel became part of the Shanghai Education Commission compound. Although it was used occasionally by the Jewish community, it was no longer a consecrated synagogue.
But, in a gracious move that delighted the new and growing Jewish community, the Chinese government has allowed the community to renovate and re-open the synagogue on the weekends (Shabbat). The services are geared for tourists and visitors and they are followed by Shabbat meals on premises.
Rabbi Shalom Greenberg, director of the Chabad-Lubavitch run Shanghai Jewish Center, credited the Chinese government with allowing continual use of the synagogue in honor of the 2010 World Expo. We all wish to extend our appreciation to the Chinese government for this tremendous gesture, he said.
The Jewish community is Shanghai is quite different from the original 30,000 to 40,000 members – largely British from India and Persia (Bagdad). The current Jewish community are all expats from literally ALL over the world doing business here, or representing foreign companies, or students studying in university there.
Chabad in Shanghia invites every Jewish person who comes through Shanghai to join them for Shabbat dinner and services, which are held using Sepharadic traditions and melodies It is truly an enjoyable experience no matter what your Jewish background or affiliation, notes Rabbi Mendy Alevsky. Schedules and reservations can be found at ChinaJewish.org/OhelRachel1
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