Birobidzhan, China News
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Christian Science Monitor | Christian Science Monitor
At first glance, Birobidzhan seems like any other Siberian city, with its massive statue of Lenin, World War II monument, and crumbling Soviet-era apartment blocks. But then you notice that Jewish symbols are everywhere, from the huge menorah dominating the main square to the large sign in the train station welcoming travelers to "Birobidzhan" in Yiddish.
Those symbols are a reminder that this Siberian territory bordering Manchuria and seven time zones east of Moscow is a Jewish republic. The Jewish Autonomous Region was created by Stalin 75 years ago as an alternative to the Zionist project in Israel. As many as 18,000 Jews moved here. At first it flourished, with Yiddish theaters, schools, and newspapers everywhere, but Stalin soon wiped out most of the elite. Those Jews that could flee, did. Birobidzhan's last synagogue burned down in the 1950s and today, just 6,000 of the region's 200,000 residents identify as Jews.
Updated: Sun Jun 02, 2013 09:09 am
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