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Published on November 8th, 2017 | by LedgerOnline

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Chagall hometown celebrates first synagogue opening in a century

(JTA) – The hometown in Belarus of the late artist Marc Chagall saw its first opening of a synagogue in over a century. The Jewish community of Vitebsk, located 155 miles northeast of the Belarusian capital of Minsk, last month celebrated the inauguration of the new synagogue at an event attended by city officials and faith community leaders from the Christian Orthodox and Catholic churches. Vitebsk’s rabbi, Malkiel Gorgodze, affixed a mezuzah to the doorframe of the new synagogue, which was built with municipal support near the city’s Chagall museum. The new synagogue, Ohel David, boasts 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.

“Vitebsk is a historically Jewish city,” Leonid Tomchin, the chairman of the Jewish community of Vitebsk, said at the event, which drew a crowd of several hundred people. Tomchin noted that at the beginning of the 20th century, more than half of the city’s population was Jewish, with 64 synagogues in Vitebsk. “Today there is only one, unfortunately, but even this synagogue can and will be a center of Jewish life,” he said. The vast majority of Jews who lived in what is today Belarus were murdered in the Holocaust. Today the city has a few dozen Jews.

Chagall, a Cubist painter known for combining many Jewish symbols in colorful works featuring dreamlike scenes, worked in France before immigrating to the United States to escape the Nazis. He died in 1985 at 97.


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