Shul re­opens in Cha­gall’s home­land

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY LIANNE KOLIRIN

THE CITY where Marc Cha­gall grew up has seen the open­ing of its first syn­a­gogue in more than a cen­tury.

Vitebsk, the child­hood home of the in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed painter, had a strong Jewish pres­ence prior to the Sec­ond World War, when more than half of its pop­u­la­tion was of the faith. But, as with most of eastern Europe, the ma­jor­ity of Jews in Be­larus were wiped out in the Holo­caust.

Last month Malkiel Gor­godze, rabbi of Vitebsk, fixed a mezuzah to the door­frame of the new Ohel David syn­a­gogue, close to the city’s Cha­gall mu­seum.

Sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple, in­clud­ing city of­fi­cials and com­mu­nity lead­ers from both the Chris­tian Ortho­dox and Catholic churches, at­tended a spe­cial cer­e­mony in Vitebsk, 155 miles north­east of Be­larus’s cap­i­tal city Minsk. Wel­com­ing them at the shul, the com­mu­nity’s

chair- The artist Marc Cha­gall, who died in 1985, was born in Vitebsk

man Leonid Tom­chin said: “Vitebsk is a his­tor­i­cally Jewish city.”

He told the as­sem­bled crowd that there had been 64 syn­a­gogues in Vitebsk be­fore Hitler rose to power, ac­cord­ing to the JTA.

“To­day there is only one, un­for­tu­nately, but even this syn­a­gogue can and will be a cen­tre of Jewish life,” he said.

Though he spent much of his life in France and the USA, Cha­gall was born in Vitebsk in 1887. He lived on Pokrovskaya Street, where one can visit his home to­day.

The city’s land­scapes

fea­ture fre­quently in Marc Cha­gall’s work.

The artist once wrote: “Not a sin­gle pic­ture I have, where you can­not see a frag­ment of my Pokrovskaya Street.”

To­day the com­mu­nity has a few dozen mem­bers who were un­til now wor­ship­ping in a cramped space roughly the size of an apart­ment, ac­cord­ing to Mr Tom­chin.

The new syn­a­gogue is built of the red bricks for which Vitebsk is famed. Boast­ing a ca­pac­ity of sev­eral hun­dred wor­ship­pers, the syn­a­gogue’s un­usual de­sign has one of its cor­ners tow­er­ing above the other three and a white streak ac­cen­tu­at­ing the out­line of its roof.

Both facets mak­ing up the el­e­vated corner have a sin­gle large and round win­dow with a Star of David sus­pended in its frame.


New Ohel David syn­a­gogue

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