||Responsa by the rabbi of Harbin.
Harbin, the capital of Heilung Kiang Province, in N. Manchuria, China. The modern development of Harbin began at the close of the 19th century, with the beginning of the Russian penetration of Manchuria. When Russia was granted the concession to build the Chinese Eastern Railway under the Russo-Manchurian treaty of 1898, Harbin became its administrative center with a 30-mi. (50 km.)-wide zone along the railway. In the same year, a number of Russian Jewish families went to Harbin with the official consent of the czarist government, which was interested in speedily populating the area, and which, consequently, granted them better status than that of the Jews in Russia. Among the first Jews were F. I. Rif, the brothers Samsonovich, and E. I. Dobisov. Along with other minority groups (such as Karaites), the Jews were granted plots of land on the outskirts of the town. Not being allowed to work directly on the railway, they were active as shopkeepers and contractors.
By 1903 a self-administered Jewish community existed in Harbin, numbering 500 Jews. After the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, many demobilized Jewish soldiers settled in Harbin, followed by refugees from the 1905–07 pogroms. By 1908 there were 8,000 Jews in the city, and a central synagogue was built in 1909. Several institutions came into being within the community, including clubs, a home for the aged, and a hospital providing care for all other nationalities as well. A heder was established in Harbin in 1907 and a Jewish secondary school (Yevreyskaya Gimnaziya) in 1909, which had 100 pupils in 1910. However, 70% of the Jewish pupils attended non-Jewish schools, because a numerus clausus did not exist for Jews in Harbin. The influx of Jewish refugees during World War I, the Russian Revolution (1917), and the Russian civil war sharply increased the Jewish community, which reached its peak 10,000–15,000 in the early 1930s. A Jewish National Bank was established in Harbin in 1923 as well as a Jewish library. Between 1918 and 1930 about 20 Jewish newspapers and periodicals were also established. All were in Russian except the Yiddish Der Vayter Mizrekh, appearing three times a week with a circulation of 300 in 1921–22.