This Sunday the Grand Choral Synagogue in Petersburg, Russia opened its doors for the annual Open House it hosts every fall for the last nine years. Last year 6,500 visitors came to learn more about the synagogue, and this year the numbers were even higher.
“A lot of city residents use the Open House as an opportunity to visit the synagogue, an important part of the city’s historic and architectural ensemble, which they would not come to ordinarily,” said Anna Brodskaya, the synagogue’s administrator and one of the event’s organizers. “We try to develop an insightful program for them to experience and understand what the synagogue is all about. We welcome everyone.”
And it seems everyone did come to the synagogue on Sunday – the entrance queue stretched out around the block, and many visitors said they will need to come back another time to see the renovated Small synagogue, which was packed.
A special attraction in this year’s program was the Klezmer concert that featured Chasidic wedding music performed by local musicians and a well-known Klezmer artist Avrum Burshtein, who flew in from Jerusalem for the event. “These melodies had our feet dancing on their own, we just couldn’t resist,” wrote one visitor on social media after the concert. “This was a small dream come true – to see the legendary Chasidic dances,” wrote another.
The Open House also included lectures and question-answer sessions with synagogue’s rabbis, guided tours of the halls, a ‘Jewish picture corner”, a sacred scrolls demonstration and ethnic delicacies from the synagogue’s kosher food store and restaurant. The visitors also took home a souvenir – the first letter of their name written in Hebrew on a kosher parchment by a scribe.
Petersburg’s Grand Choral Synagogue was built by the local Jewish community in 1893 and is an important cultural landmark of the city’s past and present.