The Grand Choral Synagogue

The Grand Choral Synagogue

The Grand Choral Synagogue

The St. Petersburg Grand Choral Synagogue, at 2 Lermontovsky Prospekt, is one of the largest in Europe. It serves a shrinking and aging Jewish population, in a city and country that have a history of anti-Jewish sentiment.

For about the first hundred years of St. Petersburg’s existence, Jews were officially forbidden from living in the city. Nevertheless, some lived in the city in order to serve Russian leaders, primarily as merchants or doctors.

Toward the beginning of the 19th century, restrictions on Jews were relaxed, though many were still required to live within the Pale of Settlement in Russia’s western region.

Throughout the 19th century, St. Petersburg’s Jewish population grew, and Tsar Alexander II granted the community permission to build a synagogue. However, construction did not begin until 1883, following Alexander II’s assasination, which triggered anti-Semitism and pogroms in the Pales of Settlement, though not in St. Petersburg.

Completed in 1893, the synagogue has witnessed wars and revolutions, but still tenaciously stands today. Having been neglected and looted during the early Communist period, the synagogue was restored between 2001-2003. According to the synagogue’s official history, on which much of this post is based, the synagogue’s various schools currently serve about 500 Jewish children, the future of St. Petersburg’s Jewish community.

Click here for photos from my visit to the Grand Choral Synagogue.

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One response to “The Grand Choral Synagogue

  1. Our book group seems to end up readng books about Jewish families with special attention to the times of WWII and the Holocaust. We too have long and painful memories of those times even though we didn’t generally live through them.
    I get the impression that white Russians are very resentful of others and that civilization sits uneasily with them, leading easily to violence. Part of this is likely due to survivalist attitudes associated with serious poverty and inequality. How are ordinary Russians doing economically? Is there now a big and growing middle class invested in the society as it is or are most people alienated? As you note, our understanding of what is going on in Russia is thin gruel indeed.

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