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Birobidzhan (Russian: Биробиджа́н; Yiddish: ביראָבידזשאַנ) is a town and the administrative center of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia. It is located on the Trans-Siberian railway, close to the border with the People's Republic of China, and is the home of two synagogues, including the Birobidzhan Synagogue, and the Jewish religious community of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.[4]

It was granted urban-type settlement status in 1928 and town status in 1937.


Birobidzhan today

The 2002 Census recorded the town as having a population of 77,250 (down from the 83,667 registered in the census of 1989). Birobidzhan is named after the two largest rivers in the autonomous oblast: the Bira and the Bidzhan, although only the Bira flows through the town, which lies to the east of the Bidzhan valley. Both rivers are tributaries of the Amur River. Visitors find the town surprisingly green. The chief economic activity is light industry.

Jewish and Yiddish culture in Birobidzhan

According to Rabbi Mordechai Scheiner, the Chief Rabbi of Birobidzhan and Chabad Lubavitch representative to the region, "Today one can enjoy the benefits of the Yiddish culture and not be afraid to return to their Jewish traditions. It's safe without any anti-Semitism, and we plan to open the first Jewish day school here."[citation needed] Mordechai Scheiner, an Israeli father of six, has been the rabbi in Birobidzhan for the last five years. He is also the host of the Russian television show, Yiddishkeit. The town's synagogue opened in 2004.[5] Rabbi Scheiner says there are 4,000 Jews in Birobidzhan, just over 5 percent of the town's 75,000 population.[6] The Birobidzhan Jewish community was led by Lev Toitman, until his death in September, 2007.[7]

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