Shanghai restoring historic synagogue

Ohel Moishe synagogue, built in 1927, served a refugee community of German and Austrian Jews.

ohel moishe synagogue 88 (photo credit: )
ohel moishe synagogue 88
(photo credit: )
Shanghai is restoring one of the city's two remaining synagogues as part of a growing celebration of the city's Jewish heritage, the government said Thursday. Built in 1927-28, the Ohel Moishe synagogue was a center of the community in the Tilanqiao neighborhood, where Shanghai's Japanese overlords, under German pressure, forced German and Austrian Jews to live in the final years of World War II. The refugees left after the war's end and the 1949 communist takeover, and in 1996, the city turned the synagogue into a museum of Jewish history. Its collection will be expanded under the fix-up that began last month, according to a spokeswoman for the Hongkou district government. Restoration is due to take five months. The project's budget wasn't known, although reports said the government has already spent $1.3 million on restoring the surrounding area and promoting it as a tourist site. Efforts to salvage Shanghai's Jewish history have been driven by both domestic and overseas scholarly interest, as well as by the growing numbers of Jewish expatriates in the city. That trend in turn has been embraced by city leaders, who are eager to cast Shanghai as cosmopolitan and welcoming to foreigners. However, they have yet to respond to a call last year from surviving Shanghai Jews for the city to apply for UNESCO World Heritage protection status for Tilanqiao. The city's other surviving synagogue, Ohel Rachel, is owned by the city's education bureau, which opens it for Jewish services only a few times a year. Shanghai's estimated 2,000 Jewish residents worship mainly in private homes and Judaism is not recognized as an official religion by China's communist government, which strictly controls religious activities.