When Saint Petersburg used to be the capital of the 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 there for the Jews until the 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 famous places of the Jewish heritage in Saint Petersburg.
01The Grand Choral Synagogue
The history of the Synagogue of Saint Petersburg starts in 1893. 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 World War II and served as a hospital organized by a Jewish community. In the year 2003, it went through reconstruction and now looks almost like it was initially.
Today it is an operating Synagogue and a great example of the Moorish style; some Arabesque elements make it a remarkable sight and example of Jewish architecture. Besides the Synagogue halls, you can find a Kosher supermarket and a restaurant on its territory.
02ESOD 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 central place of Jewish life and culture in Saint Petersburg and organizes studies, children's 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 particular house for a ritual cleaning made of stone. The graveyard 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.
04The 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 the 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 remains successful in Russia until the Bolsheviks nationalized it after 1917.
During the Soviet period, the building sold air tickets and a bus station for the passengers departing to the airport. In the 2000s, the building was owned by a famous Saint Petersburg rock club Saigon, and currently, it houses multiple offices and cafes.
05History 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 the life and culture of different Russian folks and nations, and in 2003, the exhibition of Jewish people's 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.