This past Friday saw the grand dedication of a brand new Jewish Center in the far-eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, a major Pacific port city on the Sea of Japan, close to the China and North Korea borders. The classically-designed structure houses a beautiful synagogue, a Jewish school, rooms for Torah study, a religious library, an elegant mikvah, and a social services center.
The inauguration was hosted by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Shimon Varakin, rabbi of the Jewish community of Vladivostok, and included many special guests and dignitaries including Russia's chief rabbi, Rabbi Berel Lazar, and Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, who is also the nation's former president. Also in attendance were the chief rabbi of S. Petersburg, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Pewzner; the Governor of Vladivostok, Vladimir Miklushevsky; as well as donors and many members of Vladivostok’s Jewish community.
Roughly a nine hour flight from Moscow, and the terminus of the Trans-Siberian railway which links the city to Moscow, Vladivostok is home to close to 5,000 Jews. The newly refurbished Jewish Center building dates back more than 100 years and was returned to the Jewish community about ten years ago after being appropriated by the communists during the Stalinist era. Since its return, the property has undergone extensive renovations in order to meet the growing needs of the city’s thriving Jewish community.