The historical building of the Grand synagogue in Kaluga was opened after renovations on Tuesday, October 8th. The opening marks almost 90 years since the last time the synagogue welcomed Jewish worshippers at its doors. Chief rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar participated in the opening ceremony along with the community rabbi of Bryansk, Mendy Zaklas, local community leaders and heads of city and region administration.
The Grand synagogue of Kaluga, a city in central Russia with a Jewish population of about 2,000, was built by the community in 1913, and served as such up to 1926. At that point, the building was handed over, first to the labor union and then to a college of fine arts, and all Jewish activities there stopped. It was not until only two years ago, that the region administration made a decision to return the building to its historical owners. Since then, the local Jewish community with the help of FJC (Federation of Jewish communities of the CIS) conducted major renovations, both of the building interior, that had to have all new communications installed and the facade, that was considerably run down and depleted.
The re-opening of the synagogue is an epic event for the Jewish community of Kaluga and will serve as a catalyst for reviving Jewish life in the area. “The synagogue will serve not only as a place for religious services but as an active center of community life, cultural and educational programs, ” said Rabbi Berel Lazar at the opening ceremony. Besides prayer services, the synagogue will host a center for the elderly, a children’s’ Sunday school, a kosher cafeteria and a library.