(JTA) — Two ancient synagogues that Soviet authorities confiscated in rural Russia were rededicated as Jewish houses of worship.
One rededication occurred this week in Voronezh, in southern Russia, at a 110-year-old synagogue that was nationalized and turned into a textile factory. The renovation cost $2.5 million, which came mostly from the Russian-Jewish billionaire German Khan.
Last week, a rededication took place in the Black Sea city of Krasnodar at a ceremony led by Rabbi Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia, and Rabbi Avraam Ilyaguyev, who is in charge of religious services for Mountain Jews at the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia.
In Krasnodar, the local Jewish community began renovating the synagogue seven years ago, but bureaucratic and budget problems meant that “the place remained as it had been when Russian authorities returned it – an empty shell with nothing but bare concrete inside,” Boruch Gorin, a senior aide to Lazar and editor of the Russian Jewish L’chaim newspaper, told JTA on Tuesday.
The building, which cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars to reconstruct with funds raised locally, now has a prayer hall for 500 as well as a day-care center and Sunday school.
The rededication of the Voronezh synagogue, which was returned to the community 26 years ago, drew hundreds of guests, including the chief rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, and Yuri Kanner, the president of the Russian Jewish Congress.
“The vision of the Valley of Dry Bones is being realized before our eyes in these ancient communities,” said Goldschmidt, who is also the president of the Conference of European Rabbis. “The demand for Jewish education and Torah classes is only increasing.”