The Siberian city of Abakan—a major center in what once was a fear-inspiring region where hundreds of thousands of Jews were exiled by Tsarist and Communist regimes, and many risked and lost their lives by observing Judaism in secret—saw the opening of a new chapter in its Jewish history last week with the inauguration of the city’s first Jewish center.

With members of the small Jewish community, as well as government and rabbinic dignitaries in attendance, Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar affixed the main mezuzah to the new complex, which includes a synagogue, community center and study halls.

The new center was built at the initiative and under the supervision of Rabbi Binyomin Leib Wagner, director of Chabad of Krasnoyarsk, Russia; Uri Lifshitz, head of the Jewish community of Krasnoyarsk, Hirsh Gregory Fihotnik, head of the Jewish community of Akaban; and thanks to the philanthropy of Swiss businessman Yitzchak Glazenberg.

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In recent weeks, Chabad-Lubavitch yeshivah students from around the Russia affixed mezuzahs to Jewish homes, helped dozens of Jewish men to put on tefillin for the first time and encouraged the community to participate in the historic event.

A Shabbat dinner was hosted for the community, and many Jewish participants said they had never before been inside a synagogue or seen a Torah scroll.

The new center was built at the initiative and under the supervision of Rabbi Binyomin Leib Wagner, director of Chabad of Krasnoyarsk, Russia. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
The new center was built at the initiative and under the supervision of Rabbi Binyomin Leib Wagner, director of Chabad of Krasnoyarsk, Russia. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
Some Jewish participants at the opening said they had never before been inside a synagogue or seen a Torah scroll. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
Some Jewish participants at the opening said they had never before been inside a synagogue or seen a Torah scroll. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
Rabbi Berel Lazar affixes the mezuzah. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
Rabbi Berel Lazar affixes the mezuzah. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
The rabbi and some of the honorees at the ribbon-cutting. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
The rabbi and some of the honorees at the ribbon-cutting. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
The new complex includes a synagogue, community center and study halls. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
The new complex includes a synagogue, community center and study halls. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
The center will offer the opportunity for study, prayer and community events. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
The center will offer the opportunity for study, prayer and community events. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
Visitors and local residents celebrate the city's first Jewish center. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)
Visitors and local residents celebrate the city's first Jewish center. (Photo: Chabad of the CIS)