KAZAN, Russia (JTA) — Muslim and Christian faith leaders congratulated Russian Jews on the rededication of a 100-year-old synagogue 500 miles east of Moscow.
The well-wishers gathered Thursday at an interfaith roundtable in Kazan, the capital of Russia’s predominantly-Muslim state of Tatarstan. Limmud FSU, the Russian language branch of the Jewish educational outreach group, organized the event.
“A day of celebration for the Jews of Tatarstan is a festive day for all in the state, and I wish to extend our Jewish fellow citizens my warmest sympathies on their day of celebration,” said the mufti of Tatarstan, Kamil Hazrat Samigullin, at the roundtable. He also condemned the actions of jihadists as unrepresentative of Islam.
Also present was Vladimir Samoilenko, the archpriest, or senior Russian Orthodox cleric, of the region.
After the interfaith event, some 600 Jews watched Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar affix a new mezuzah to the doorframe of Kazan’s only synagogue, where renovations were completed last week, in part with government funding. Musicians from Russia and Israel played outside the building, which was built in the Russian Revival style.
“Limmud is about uniting different streams of Judaism for education and against extremism, but increasingly also different faiths,” Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler said at the roundtable.
Lazar said that in Tatarstan, “we have an example not only for the rest of Russia, but for the world in the harmonious relations achieved between faiths as a result of the wise policy” of Rustam Minnikhanov, president of Tatarstan.
Communist authorities confiscated the synagogue in the 1920s but in 1996 it was returned to the local Jewish community “in a horrible condition, with a portrait of Vladimir Lenin incorporated into the walls,” said Yitzchak Gorelik, Tatrastan’s chief rabbi. “Since then, we carried a debt to this once magnificent building, to restore it to its past splendor. The debt is today paid.”
Vladimir Samoilenko, the archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church of Tatrastan, also congratulated local Jews on the rededication.
(Limmud FSU sponsored JTA’s attendance at the Kazan event. It had no role in the writing or editing of this story.)