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Soviets to Return Jewish Center First Requisitioned in 1947

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A former Jewish community center in Moscow will be returned to its owner, Moscow’s famous Choral Synagogue, 47 years after it was requisitioned by the Soviet authorities to serve as a hospital for war casualties.

An agreement was reached last week between Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, and Mayor Valery Saikin of Moscow for the transfer, which has been approved by the Moscow City Council.

Schneier said his congregation will help pay for restoring the 100-year-old building, which stands next to the Choral Synagogue, the largest in the Soviet Union, on Arkhipova Street.

It will send architects and construction specialists to Moscow for that purpose.

Schneier, who is rabbi of the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, said he began to campaign for the return of the building 18 months ago, in talks with Konstantin Kharchev, chairman of the Council of Religious Affairs of the Soviet Council of Ministers.

Earlier this month, the Soviet government returned property to the Russian Orthodox Church that it has controlled since the 1920s.

“It’s part of a process that seeks to align religious believers with perestroika (reconstruction) and the rebuilding of Soviet society,” said Schneier, whose foundation promotes religious freedom worldwide.

He said it was unlikely the synagogue’s annex would have been returned five years ago.

The building, which was requisitioned in 1941, now houses a medical school. The two doors connecting it to the synagogue are sealed.

The transfer will be finalized when Mayor Saikin signs a contract with Rabbi Adolph Shayevich of the Choral Synagogue.

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