‘Jewish Capital’ of Belarus Granted Center Space for Jewish Museum

In a historical decision, the city government of Bobruisk, Belarus has granted the local Jewish community the rights to a plot of land with the remains of an old synagogue in the city center last week. Even though the land itself will remain a property of the city, the Jewish community will now be able to use the area to create a unique interactive Jewish heritage space, an important step in preserving the city’s rich Jewish history and developing its current activities.

“We are very excited for this. We hope to create a sort of an open museum in the city center, that will give us an opportunity to easily interact with the city residents and tourists, Jewish and non-Jewish alike,” said Shaul Hababo, Bobruisk chief rabbi. 

Until now, the city’s Jewish life has been concentrated in the synagogue building, visited by 10,000 tourists from all over the world annually. However, the synagogue alone is not enough to tell the full story of the city that used to be called the “Jewish capital” of Belarus. In the 19th and early 20th century Bobruisk was the center of religious, intellectual and political Jewish life of the region. The famous Ginzburg publishing house was based in Bobruisk and it was also home to many prominent religious leaders, writers, poets, painters and politicians. The open Jewish museum, planned in the new space, will aim to capture the spiritual and cultural heritage of those times. Belarus, with all its rich Jewish treasures from the past, does not have a proper Jewish museum, at least one easily accessible to everyone, and the community hopes the space will become a welcome addition to the city’s cultural scene, rabbi Hababo said. Besides the museum, the space will be used for general public events, such as holiday celebrations, pre-Pesach matzah bakings and children’s and youth activities. 

The design and planning stage for the new project have already began and the community, where various Jewish organisations function in unison side-by-side, hopes for support from its friends and members, so that construction will get on the way promptly, rabbi Hababo said.  

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