Vox Tablet

A Shul for Shanghai

Shanghai’s historic Ohel Rachel Synagogue was allowed to serve as a place of worship during the World Expo, which closes this week. Now what?

October 25, 2010
The Ohel Rachel Synagogue in July.(Jackson Lowen)

The Ohel Rachel Synagogue in July.(Jackson Lowen)

Shanghai’s Expo 2010 will draw to a close on October 31. It is the largest World’s Fair in history, with 200 pavilions and nearly 70 million attendees expected. (Tablet Magazine’s Matthew Fishbane previewed the Expo, and its display of growing ties between China and Israel, in March.) For Chinese visitors, many of whom have never traveled abroad, the Expo has functioned something like a very crowded and slow-moving world cruise (waits for the most popular pavilions—Saudi Arabia, China, Japan—can take 12 hours). The Expo has also given Shanghai’s Jewish residents access to a local treasure: the Ohel Rachel Synagogue.

Built in 1920, the ornate synagogue, which was a place of worship for Shanghai’s Sephardic business community, has been shuttered for more than 50 years. Jewish leaders were granted permission to hold Shabbat services there for the sixth-month duration of the Expo. Rebecca Kanthor reports for Vox Tablet from Shanghai on the history of the synagogue and its congregants and on its prospects for the future. Running time: 8:23.

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Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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