Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent trip to China began as an effort to consider ways of increasing bilateral trade between the two countries. However, an unexpected development at the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue in Shanghai altered the itinerary just a bit.

After years of Chabad rabbinical students visiting the city during holidays and over the summer, Chabad-Lubavitch of Shanghai was officially established in 1998 under the directorship of Rabbi Shalom and Dinie Greenberg. Today, three Chabad centers serve the more than 3,000 Jews living there.

At an evening meeting on Monday, May 6, with 400 Israelis and a few dozen locals who represent Israeli companies that operate in China, Netanyahu lauded Shanghai. “This city represents the future,” he said, “of China and the entire world.”

He also told Greenberg that wherever a meeting takes place with Jews, “How is it possible without Chabad?”

In addition to the three Chabad centers, Chabad runs two kosher eateries and the only kosher catering service in the city. While planning the Shanghai visit, the prime minister’s office contacted Chabad to arrange for kosher food; three meals a day were provided to the delegation for the duration of the trip.

On Tuesday morning, Netanyahu again met Chabad-Lubavitch leaders during a tour of Jewish sites in the city, this time at the Ohel Moshe Synagogue—a historic synagogue and an official architectural heritage treasure of Shanghai.

“While most of the world closed its doors to the Jews 70 years ago, Shanghai was among the few places that opened its gates,” said the prime minister, referring to the 30,000 refugees who found a home there during World War II.

The renovation of the former synagogue was funded by the Shanghai government, according to the original architectural drawings found in city archives. Today, it serves as a museum, and as a venue for Jewish weddings and other lifecycle events.

But it does not have daily services, which was highlighted when Netanyahu’s son, Avner, turned to Rabbi Avraham Greenberg, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Pudong, and asked him if he happened to have tefillin—the ritual boxes worn on the arm and head during prayer—since he apparently did not have the chance to pray that morning. Greenberg directed him to the center of the room, to the rabbi’s own personal set.

But again, since no regular prayer services are held there, no prayerbook was to be found. So the savvy 12th-grader pulled out his smartphone and called one up.

He prayed the entire service, as the Chinese news cameras clicked away, following his every move: covering his eyes for the Shema, and then taking three steps backward and then forward for the Amidah prayer.

Even amid the flurry of media attention, the teenager seemed nonplussed, oblivious to his surroundings.

After finishing his prayers, one man approached him and asked what he had just wrapped around his arm. Avner, who regularly wears a headcovering, explained, in English, the morning ritual and its Jewish significance. According to The Jerusalem Post, he said: “It reminds us daily of Who we stand before.”