Russian community of Jews was considered once the largest one in the world; however, Jewish people were going through multiple challenges and have been deprived of their legal rights for a long time. However, they have always made a great contribution to the development of Russian science, literature, culture and politics, which has left rich heritage and historical evidence.
When Saint Petersburg used to be a capital of Russian Empire, Jewish people were not allowed to live there. Even though some historians claim that several people of Peter the First had Jewish origin, there was an official ban on moving to Saint Petersburg and settling down there for the Jews till 19th century.
Today Saint Petersburg is a home for a well-grown Jewish community and has a Synagogue, community centers, kosher shops and restaurants. We will tell you about the most known and popular places of the Jewish heritage in Saint Petersburg.
The Grand Choral Synagogue
The history of the Synagogue of Saint Petersburg starts in 1893, when despite many restrictions regarding the location and height of a synagogue it finally opened its doors not far from the Mariinskiy theatre. It remained intact even after it was bombed during the World War II and served as a hospital organized by a Jewish community. In year 2003, it went through a reconstruction and now looks almost like it was originally.
Today it is an operating Sinagogue and a great example of the Moorish style; some Arabesque elements make it special sight and example of Jewish architecture. Besides the Synagogue halls, you can find a Kosher supermarket and a restaurant on its territory.
ESOD Cultural Center
ESOD is a Saint-Petersburg Jewish Community House operating from 2005. It is a space for different organizations — charity, family, student, children and education centers. Today it is the main place of Jewish life and culture in Saint Petersburg and organizes studies, children holidays, festivals and charity actions.
In 1875, the Jewish community bought a part of the land in Obukhovo district to organize a Jewish cemetery. It is built according to all the principles of Jewish funeral practices with a special house for a ritual cleaning made of stone. The cemetery has unusual and interesting monuments and it is a burial place for many famous and outstanding people: David Ginsburg (Jewish communal leader), Abraham Lubanov (the main rabbi of Leningrad), Samuil Polyakov (Russian railroad financier), Mark Antokolsky (sculptor) and many others.
The Wawelberg Building
The Wawelberg house is located on Nevskiy prospect, 7, the very heart of Saint Petersburg. Currently serving as a business center, it attracts attention of all bypassers by its solemn medieval look. In 1912 it was turned into Saint Petersburg Commercial Bank, founded by the Wawelberg Polish-Jewish family; the bank remain successful in Russia until it was nationalized by Bolsheviks after 1917.
During the Soviet Period, the building was a place, where they sold airtickets, and a bus station for the passengers, departing to the airport. In 2000s, the building was owned by a famous Saint Petersburg rock club Saigon and currently it houses multiple offices and cafes.
History and culture of the Jewish people on the territory of Russia exhibition
This is a part of the whole exhibition of the Russian Museum of Ethnography. The museum is dedicated to life and culture of different Russian folks and nations, and in 2003, the exhibition of Jewish people culture was added to the whole collection. Later, in 2007, it was expanded by more and more items, and currently it is considered almost like a separate museum. Today it amounts to 2 500 items of Jewish culture, houses, ritual objects and photographs.