House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) is pushing the Chinese government to reopen a historic Shanghai synagogue, the Hill reported.
Shanghai is home to only a few thousand Jewish people, but its synagogue dates back to the late-1800s and served several thousands in the past. The Chinese government does not allow Jewish people to hold worship services and continues to put many restrictions on other religions as well. Cantor visited the synagogue on his trip to China in April and learned about its unique history.
Sephardic Jews built the Ohel Rachel Synagogue in the late 19th century, at a time when Shanghai was home to tens of thousands of Jews. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, at least 25,000 Jews fled Europe for sanctuary in Shanghai, which took them in at a time when many other countries were turning away Jewish refugees. A number of active synagogues existed in Shanghai during this period.
After World War II, many Jews left Shanghai and the Ohel Rachel Synagogue fell into disuse under communist rule.
The synagogue now hosts the Shanghai Education Commission, complicating efforts to turn it back into a functioning place of worship. For a time, the synagogue was used as a warehouse by the commission.
The Ohel Rachel was reopened briefly in 2010 when Shanghai hosted the world’s fair, but was closed again when the fair ended and is now only used for religions ceremonies on the High Holy Days. In 2002, it was placed on the World Monument Fund’s list of endangered historic structures.