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Jewish Exhibition Opens in Harbin Synagogue
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An exhibition celebrating the history and culture of the Jews opened on Sunday at an 85-year-old renovated synagogue in Harbin, the biggest in the Far East, marking the long-standing friendship between the Chinese and the Jews.

A black marble monument built with silver birches and in a northeast Chinese style inside the synagogue has the names and photos of Jews that once lived in the city etched into it.

One of the exhibits includes a record of the burial of 600 Jews at the Huangshan Jewish Cemetery. On display are pictures, videos, sand tables and sculptures, and a description of Jewish religious, political, economic and cultural activities in Harbin more than half a century ago, said Qu Wei, president of Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.

Due to anti-Semitic problems, a large number of Jews fled to Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang Province, from Russia, Eastern Europe and other Western countries from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century.

They formed quite complete living communities in the city, with settler numbers exceeding 20,000 in the 1920s, the largest community in the Far East region at the time.

"The Jewish people fled persecution and found a new home in China, and were well treated by the Chinese," said Chen Haosu, President of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.

The Heilongjiang Provincial and Harbin Municipal governments have invested more than 20 million yuan (US$2.5 million) in renovating many Jewish historical sites, including the synagogue, Qu said.

Built in 1921, the synagogue can hold 800 worshipers. It was and is an important place of the Jew's religious, cultural and community life in Harbin, Qu said.

Former US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky commented the local government's efforts to preserve Jewish historical sites, saying that what the Chinese government has done, including this exhibition, is a mark of great respect for Jews, their history and culture.

(Xinhua News Agency, Heilongjiang Daily January 9, 2006)

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