Historic Polish synagogue rededicated


(JTA) — The historic synagogue in Zamosc was rededicated after a $2.4 million restoration, though the Renaissance town in southeast Poland no longer has a Jewish community.

Ambassadors, Jewish leaders and other dignitaries attended Tuesday’s festive ceremony, which was followed by the opening of a conference on Zamosc Jewish history.

Amid prayers and commemorative speeches, Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, affixed a mezuzah to the door of the fortress-like building, which was built originally in the early 17th century.

The restored building will function as a cultural center, including a Jewish museum, and serve as a hub for a tourist "Chasidic Route." Located near the site of the Nazi death camp of Belzec — now a memorial and museum — the synagogue also will be available for religious services.

Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Zvi Rav-Ner, called the synagogue a "kind of small bridge" and said he hoped it would be "a Jewish place that will serve the city, so that Jews and Poles can meet here, so that in some way the dialogue that we had for 900 years can be continued."

The building is one of the most important synagogues in Poland to have survived the Holocaust and communism; most were destroyed. Most of the town’s 12,500 Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

During World War II the German occupiers used the vaulted interior of the elegant building as a stable and carpentry workshop, and after the war it served as the local library. The building was restituted to Jewish ownership in 2005.

The restoration project was overseen by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and largely funded by grants from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

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