Diplomats, Chinese officials and Jewish community leaders were on hand May 7 for the official reopening of Shanghai’s historic Ohel Rachel Synagogue.

Gathering in the courtyard outside the circa-1920s structure just hours before the onset of Shabbat, members of the local Jewish community saw in the reopening the return of Jewish life to a synagogue that had been used sparingly in the last couple of years.

Rabbi Shalom Greenberg, director of the Chabad-Lubavitch run Shanghai Jewish Center, credited the Chinese government with allowing continual use of the synagogue in honor of the 2010 World Expo.

“We all wish to extend our appreciation to the Chinese government for this tremendous gesture,” he said.

Workers prepare the interior of Shanghai, China’s historic Ohel Rachel Synagogue May 7 for its first Friday night service after government officials granted their approval to the Jewish community’s summer use of the structure in honor of the 2010 World Expo.

Local dignitaries and Jewish leaders who took part in the official reopening of the Ohel Rachel synagogue included, from left, a representative of the Chinese government; Rabbi Shalom Greenberg, director of the Shanghai Jewish Center; Israeli Consul General Jackie Eldan; Jewish community president Maurice Ohana; another government representative; and Rabbi Shlomo Aouizrat, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary who also serves as the rabbi of the Ohel Rachel.

Rabbi Shlomo Aouizrat offers a prayer at the opening ceremony.

An imposing structure, Ohel Rachel was built decades ago to accommodate a large contingent of Baghdadi Jews that had settled in the port city. Today, locals look to the synagogue as one of the most significant symbols of Shanghai’s colorful Jewish history.

Rabbi Shalom Greenberg thanks the Chinese government on behalf of the Jewish community.

Members of Shanghai’s Jewish community look to the reopening as an emotional return of worshippers to a space that has largely sat idle for years.

Shanghai’s contemporary Jewish community is comprised primarily of international expatriates.

Jewish community president Maurice Ohana presents awards to Chinese officials who made it possible for Jewish life to return to Ohel Rachel.

Israeli Consul General Jackie Eldan tells attendees of his familial tie to the Sassoon family that built Ohel Rachel in the 1920s.

Local Jewish children recite biblical verses at the grand opening.

Joined by Chinese officials, Rabbi Shalom Greenberg, left, Maurice Ohana and Jackie Eldan cut the ribbon in front of the synagogue’s entrance.

Rabbi Mordechai Avtzon, director of Chabad of Hong Kong, joins celebrants for a round of dancing.

Jewish women light candles to usher in Shabbat after the ceremony.

The Ohel Rachel once housed 30 Torah scrolls. Today, it sits on lists of historically and culturally significant sites around the world. (Photo: Dvir Bar-Gal)