THE Russian city of Arkhangelsk saw the opening of a synagogue inside what may be the world’s northernmost Jewish community centre.
The three-storey building took four years to construct and cost around £2.2 million raised from private donors, said Anatoly Obermeister, the chairman of the local Jewish community.
Arkhangelsk, where the sun currently shines for 21 hours a day, is located some 750 miles north of Moscow, at a latitude that is more than three degrees to the north of Anchorage, Alaska.
Separately, construction of what will be Russia’s westernmost synagogue continues in Kaliningrad, an enclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.
It is a replica of the Konigsberg Synagogue, a mammoth domed building that was one of Europe’s most impressive Jewish monuments, before it was destroyed in the 1938 Kristallnacht pogroms.
It is set to re-open on the pogrom’s 80th anniversary in November.
In February, a 23-ton dome was installed on the Konigsberg Synagogue. The following month, workers installed the first of eight stained-glass windows.
They are themed after the work of artist Marc Chagall, a Jew who grew up in what is now Belarus.
The Konigsberg Synagogue cost several million pounds to build, with the philanthropist Vladimir Katsman donating £3 million to the project.
Both projects are headed by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, the local branch of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar attended the cornerstone laying ceremony for both of them.
In Arkhangelsk, the new synagogue is part of the North Star Jewish Cultural Centre.
The modernist glass and metal building has a main entrance that features a giant Star of David. The building has a concert hall that seats 500 — despite the community only being 200-strong.
The previous northernmost JCC was a Jewish museum and community facilities in Trondheim, Norway, located a full degree south of Arkhangelsk’s latitude.
Arkhangelsk, which is a major fishing and logging centre, was home to two synagogues before the Communist revolution, but they closed down in the 1920s.
The first known Jewish community there was set up by former Cantonists — victims of a policy enforced from 1827 to 1856, that forced Jewish communities to give up 10 children older than 12 for every 1,000 Jews.
Last year, authorities in the Siberian city of Tomsk handed over a unique wooden synagogue built by former Cantonists to the local Jewish community.
The community, led by a Chabad rabbi, is currently preparing to open a large community center next to its main synagogue.