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Jews Lay Cornerstone of New Synagogue in Kazakstan

August 6, 1996

ALMATY, Kazakstan (AP) _ Jews in the capital of this former Soviet republic have laid the cornerstone of a new synagogue and the city’s first Jewish community center.

About 500 people sang and danced to traditional songs Monday as men used shovels or their bare hands to cover the cornerstone.

The center will serve Almaty’s estimated 8,000 Jews.

``At last there will be a place to seek out Jewish life,″ said Joel Benjamin, an American lawyer who has worked in Kazakstan for three years. ``I typically celebrated holidays myself saying prayers at home.″

Jewish families in New York and Belgium are the main sponsors of the $250,000 synagogue, set to be finished next summer.

Some $2 million is still needed to build the community center, Kazakstan’s chief Rabbi Yeshaya Cohen said.

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