Jewish Community Home opened in St. Petersburg

Jewish officials and foreign dignitaries on Friday opened the St. Petersburg Jewish Community Home to house major organizations and programs serving the northern city's 100,000-strong Jewish population.

"This center is to become an important center of Jewish life in Russia, and one of the most important events in the life of St. Petersburg Jews for the last 100 years," Arkady Mil-Man, Israel's ambassador to Russia, said at the opening ceremony, the AP reports.

Construction of the US$10 million (Ђ8 million) community center was sponsored by the American Joint Distribution Committee and other Jewish groups from North America. The center will house an art studio, kindergarten, sports center, computer center and library.

Ellen Heller, president of the Joint Distribution committee, said the opening of such a big center was another sign of the revival of Jewish life in Russia.

"Jewish communities once suffered from the repressive Soviet governments, but here today we see Jewish renaissance and rebirth in the country," Heller said.

Beginning seven years ago, Cleveland Jews began flying to St. Petersburg to celebrate Passover, to forge friendships and to share what they know about sustaining a vibrant cultural community.

St. Petersburg Jews were invited back to Cleveland to tour Jewish day schools, to see Jewish theater and to witness Jewish-sponsored social service programs for immigrants, the elderly and children with special needs.

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