1 The doormen outside the headquarters of Shanghai's Municipal Education Commission have a new colleague these days. On Friday evenings and Saturday mornings they are joined by a young Mandarin-speaking Israeli, who keeps an eye on comings and goings. The ivy-covered compound, built in the 1920s, is also the home of Ohel RacheI, one of Shanghai's last surviving synagogues. This month, for the first time in almost 60 years, it reopened for regular Sabbath services.
2 That Ohel RacheI was reopened, even though Judaism is not one of China's five officially recognised religions, is one of a number of signs that Shanghai may be coming to terms with its past. After the Communist revolution in 1949, much of the city's history was swept under the carpet, and its grand old buildings put to new uses. Some of these buildings had been designated for protection in recent decades, but the heritage signs posted on them typically give little detail about their previous significance.
3 Ohel RacheI was neglected for decades. Even now, the 2,000-strong Jewish community has been promised regular access only until October, when the Shanghai World Expo ends. But Rabbi Shalom Greenberg, who led the campaign for its reopening, says that the city's authorities have indicated unofficially that it will be hard to reverse the decision. He believes that Shanghai’s economic revival has made officials more confident in treating its complex history, and able "to use the past to benefit the future–even if the past was not so much to their liking."
4 Shanghai's small Russian Orthodox community has also, for the first time, received permission to use one of the prewar churches built by White Russians. Shanghai's former British cathedral, the Holy Trinity, has been painstakingly renovated by China's official Protestant church.
5 At the north end of the Bund, Shanghai's famous waterfront, the area around the original British consulate has been renovated. Even the buildings' original names, such as the Baptist Publication Society Building and the former headquarters of Britain's Royal Asiatic Society, have been reinstated. "This is nothing to do with politics," says Zhou Wei, governor of the district which includes the Bund. "This is about history and culture. This area is the root of the development of modern Shanghai." Mr Zhou says that Shanghai is treating the protection of its distinctive history and culture with new seriousness.
6 Around the city, a number of signs detailing long-forgotten street names have been erected. The Shanghai Corporate Pavilion at the World Expo, funded by local state enterprises, commissioned a Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer, Liu Heung Shing, to compile a book of images of Shanghai's history, giving him unprecedented access to the city's archives.
7 Yet this more relaxed attitude towards history does not always beget more vigorous preservation. In some areas of the city, demolition continues. The demand for new infrastructure, or simply property, can be more than enough to trump the appeal of conservation. Parts of the wartime Jewish "ghetto" area in Hongkou district, for instance, were recently knocked down. Parts of the past itself are still off limits too. In Mr Liu's book, a number of historical moments are notably absent, such as the student protests in Shanghai in 1989. Some history is still too hard to face.
According to the information in the article, Ohel Rachel most likely
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