Cantor pushes China to open historic synagogue

Posted By on May 9, 2014

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is pressing the Chinese government to reopen a historic synagogue in Shanghai.

In an interview with The Hill, Cantor said hes requested a meeting with Chinas ambassador to the United States to discuss the issue and expects to talk to him soon.

It was Cantors first trip to China, a visit that gave him a first-hand look at that countrys handling of minority religions such as Judaism, which is not officially recognized by the government. The group was only the second congressional delegation from the U.S. to visit Shanghai since 2010.

The guided tour of Ohel Rachel was given by one of the rabbis in Shanghai. Cantor said Chinese officials also accompanied him during the visit.

What they would like is the ability to use the synagogue on a regular basis, he said of the small Jewish community in Shanghai.

Though today only a few thousand of Shanghais 24 million people practice Judaism, the religion has a long history in the city.

Sephardic Jews built the Ohel Rachel Synagogue in the late 19th century, at a time when Shanghai was home to tens of thousands of Jews. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, at least 25,000 Jews fled Europe for sanctuary in Shanghai, which took them in at a time when many other countries were turning away Jewish refugees. A number of active synagogues existed in Shanghai during this period.

After World War II, many Jews left Shanghai and the Ohel Rachel Synagogue fell into disuse under communist rule.

The synagogue now hosts the Shanghai Education Commission, complicating efforts to turn it back into a functioning place of worship. For a time, the synagogue was used as a warehouse by the commission.

The Ohel Rachel was reopened briefly in 2010 when Shanghai hosted the worlds fair, but was closed again when the fair ended and is now only used for religions ceremonies on the High Holy Days. In 2002, it was placed on the World Monument Funds list of endangered historic structures.

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Cantor pushes China to open historic synagogue

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