After a year of restoration, the Chinese city of Harbin reopened a 105-year-old synagogue to the public last week, JTA reports. The Main Synagogue on Tongjiang Street, once an Orthodox synagogue seating up to 450 people, had been a staple of one of the largest Jewish communities in the region; thousands of Jews fleeing persecution in Europe and Czarist Russia made their way to Harbin in the 20th century.
The synagogue was damaged by a fire in 1931, and ultimately closed down in 1963. The building was later converted into a hospital and a hostel.
According to Dan Ben-Canaan, an Israeli scholar who has lived in Harbin for more than a decade, who worked with the Chinese government on the restoration project, the newly-reopened synagogue “looks exactly the same as when the synagogue first opened in 1909.”
It might look the same, but its purpose has changed: according to JTA, the newly restored building is now meant to function as a concert theater.