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Largest JCC in Siberia to open with concert

(JTA) — An open-air concert by Israeli musicians will be featured at the opening ceremony of what is being called the largest Jewish community center in Siberia, Russia.

Hundreds are expected to attend Wednesday’s opening in Novosibirsk of the  Beit Machem Center.

According to Rabbi Zalman Zaklas, the city’s chief rabbi and emissary for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, the center cost approximately $5 million to build. The money was raised in donations on three continents, he told JTA on Tuesday; the city of Novosibirsk donated the land.

The center, which has 37,000 square feet of floor space, has a synagogue, classrooms, a kosher restaurant and Jewish shops,  as well as a computer corner, entertainment area and gym.

Along with the Israeli musicians, the Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra will perform at the opening ceremony. Among those expected to attend are Rabbi Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia and the most senior Chabad emissary in the country.

Approximately 20,000 of the 3.5 million residents of greater Novosibirsk are Jewish, according to Zaklas, an Israeli rabbi who has been living in Novosibirsk for 13 years.

“Many of them are descended from Jews who were exiled here in communist times, when Judaism was strongly repressed, and in recent years they have been retracing and reconnecting to their Jewish roots,” he told JTA.

“The timing of the opening means that the community will be able to celebrate the High Holidays already in the new center, which will help bring children closer to the Jewish faith and people.”

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