Jewish residents in the eastern Siberian town of Achinsk, Russia, took the occasion of Sukkot – the weeklong festival commemorating the Jewish people’s sojourn in the wilderness after leaving Egypt – to celebrate the grand opening of their very own community center.
The inaugural ceremony drew leaders from the city administration, the city council and the Krasnoyarsk Regional Legislative Assembly, as well as Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Benyamin Wagner, the chief rabbi of Krasnoyarsk.
Ilya Grinberg, chairman of the Jewish community of Achinsk, opened the festivities with a call to strengthen the resurgence of Jewish life in the city of 114,000 people that straddles the Trans-Siberian Railway.
“During the days of this holiday, we remember the temporary shelters that our ancestors liven in after their exodus from Egypt,” said Grinberg. “Despite the fact that this building – given to us by the city administration – is large enough to meet our needs, the Jews of Achinsk are still hopeful that the day will come when we will be able to return to our historical synagogue.”
Mirroring the situation in hundreds of locations throughout the former Soviet Union, Achinsk’s central synagogue was taken over by Communist authorities decades ago. It currently serves as an ambulance station.
For his part, Wagner used the occasion to explain about the Jewish tradition of placing a mezuzah on buildings’ doorways. Wagner, who affixed the mezuzah on the new community center, emphasized that not only should a mezuzah grace the entrance of communal institutions, but that every Jewish home should have one as well.
The Jewish community of Achinsk is a member of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Former Soviet Union.