History in Vitebsk: Ancient Synagogue Restored and Inaugurated 100 Years after Foundation

Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the inauguration of the Chabad Synagogue in the heart of Vitebsk, Belarus. The event, which took place over the course of Shabbat ‘Nachamu’ and lasted until Monday, marked the long-awaited completion of the grand building restored in honor of 100 years since the synagogue’s original establishment. The original building was later destroyed by the Communist regime.

The ceremony was led by the Rabbi of the ‘Bolshoi Bronia’ synagogue in Moscow, Rabbi Yitzchak Kogan, a Chabad Hasid with roots in Vitebsk, whose family had a significant presence in the city. After obtaining the necessary approval from the government and collaborating with the local Jewish community, Rabbi Kogan oversaw the restoration of the synagogue to its previous glory.

The celebrations began on the eve of Shabbat, when a delegation arrived from Moscow, joining Rabbi Kogan in celebrating the first Shabbat in the newly refurbished synagogue. Throughout the Shabbat weekend, prayers, lectures, festive meals, and uplifting Chassidic gatherings took place on the premises.

On Sunday morning, on the arrival of the distinguished guest, Rabbi Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, the final letters of a beautiful Torah scroll were written. The inauguration of the Torah scroll began with a festive parade in which the Torah was placed under a canopy and marched through the city streets all the way to the synagogue. The streets were secured by Belarusian police, and the local municipality cleaned and spruced up the entire area in honor of the new Torah scroll.

Among the dignitaries attending were the Minister of Religion, the Governor of the region, and the Mayor, who participated for a prolonged period. Chabad emissaries and rabbis from various Belarusian communities were also present. These included a representative on behalf of the Rabbi of Minsk – Rabbi Shneur Zalman Deitsch, the Rabbi of Mogilev – Rabbi Menachem Mendel Alperovitz, the Rabbi of Brisk – Rabbi Chaim Rabinowitz, the Rabbi of Grodna – Rabbi Yitzchak Kaufman, the Rabbi of Bobruisk – Rabbi Shaul Habbo, the Rabbi of Vitebsk – Rabbi Malkiel Gorgodze, the Rabbis of Pinsk – Rabbi Moshe Fima and Rabbi Avraham Gvirtzman, the Chabad emissary to the village of Lubavitch – Rabbi Gabriel Gordon, and many rabbis and emissaries from Moscow and other cities.

The official ceremony took place in a massive tent erected in the synagogue’s courtyard, where prestigious honors were bestowed upon government representatives, distinguished donors, community leaders, and all those who contributed to the synagogue’s completion and the success of the celebration in Vitebsk, uniting the entire Jewish community of Belarus.

The impressive events left a lasting impression on the hearts of all Vitebsk’s Jewish community, and it is expected that they will be inspired to take part in various activities of the Jewish community throughout the year.

Photos by: Ilya Dolgopolsky

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