North Star, Russia’s northernmost synagogue, was officially inaugurated in Arkhangelsk on Thursday, TASS reported. The new synagogue is housed in a three-story building, which hosts a Jewish cultural center with a concert hall and classrooms.
Arkhangelsk is a city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, in the north of European Russia. It lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina River near its exit into the White Sea, and spreads along the banks of the river and the numerous islands of its delta.
As of the 2010 Census, the city’s population was 348,783, down from 356,051 recorded in the 2002 Census, and further down from 415,921 recorded in the 1989 Census.
“North Star is, first of all, a cultural center, which welcomes not only Jews – they (Jews) are few in Arkhangelsk – some 600 people only,” Chairman of the local Jewish community Anatoly Obermeister told TASS. “As for the synagogue, it is a place for praying and for reading the Torah, which will host about 40-50 people.”
Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar affixed a Mezuza to the door post at the inauguration ceremony.
“I am sure this place will host many events to enable people, including Jews, see the traditions, culture, values of our people,” Lazar told reporters. “This would promote mutual understanding […] and help local Jews learn more about the Torah, about our people’s religion and history,” Rabbi Lazar said.
“I believe it is the northernmost [synagogue] in the world, at least in Russia,” he noted.
The synagogue’s construction began in 2010, paid for by the local Jewish community, according to TASS.
Arkhangelsk Region’s Governor Igor Orlov told reporters: “In February, we opened the northernmost mosque, and today the North Star synagogue began shining in our sky. The synagogue is open, and the Jews have received their spiritual home.”
Before the October Revolution, there was a wooden synagogue in downtown Arkhangelsk, and another on the Solombala Island.