LUBLIN, Poland (JTA) — The city of Lublin in eastern Poland, once a hub of Jewish learning, saw what the local media called its first real Jewish wedding in decades.
Yohanan Petrovsky-Stern and Anastasiia Simferovska, two academics with Ukrainian roots, wed last month in Lublin’s old city at a ceremony described as “probably the first after Holocaust,” the TVP television station reported. Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland, conducted the ceremony on Po Farze Square.
A wedding celebration for several dozen guests was held at Ilan, a kosher-style hotel that the Jewish Community of Warsaw opened in 2013 inside what used to be the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva, staff told JTA on Wednesday. The building, a massive structure built in the Eclecticist style of the 1920s, was opened in 1930 in Lublin, whose 40,000 Jews constituted at least half of its population.
Today, only several dozen Jews live in Lublin. Locals periodically organize fake Jewish weddings here during heritage festivals as a tribute to the city’s rich Jewish past.
The yeshiva once was the most prestigious in Eastern Europe. It also was revolutionary in that its six floors featured a luxurious synagogue, a library with more than 20,000 volumes, spacious classrooms and dormitories, freeing students from worrying about rent and allowing them to immerse themselves in the study of Jewish scripture.
The Nazis confiscated the building in 1939 and burned the library and other artifacts on a square adjacent to the synagogue. The fire raged for 20 hours.
Communists took over the building, at one point turning it into a movie theater. It was finally returned to the Jewish community in 2003; the synagogue reopened in 2007.
Today, the hotel operating there is a 4-star establishment with 42 rooms, 22 staff and an Israeli restaurant. It is a major attraction for Jewish and non-Jewish tourists who arrive in buses from across the region.