The Jewish community in Russia's southwest Siberian city of Barnaul began the year 2008 with a new community center. The acquisition consolidates the growing list of activities coordinated by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries Rabbi Yisroel and Lieba-Masha Kamenetsky by placing them under one roof.

Since their arrival less than a year ago, the Kamenetskys have opened a Sunday school, children's dance troupe, women's club and youth club. Until this month, they were hosting services in a rented space and bringing crowds home with them for Shabbat meals. The new center – made possible through the sponsorship of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and the Rohr Family Foundation – boasts a synagogue, library, kitchen and social hall.

"In the past few months, we've had a series of miracles," beamed Kamenetsky, who serves as chief rabbi of the federal Russian district of Altai Krai. "On Chanukah, the government allowed us to put a up a menorah in the central square across the street from the city administration building. And now, with the addition of the new center, no one has to walk in the 20-below zero weather to our house after services."

According to Kamenetsky, a native Russian, the official Jewish population of Barnaul is more than 1,000, but that the actual number is probably three or four times that figure. He said that many people come up to him who are listed as non-Jews on their passports, but possess documentation proving the Jewish identity of their parents.

"This is Siberia," he stated. "During the Communist era, they sent many, many Jews here."

The last time Barnaul had a synagogue was in the 1930s, when the Soviet authorities confiscated the building.