Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Shul reopens in Marc Chagall’s Belarus homeland

Jewish community in city of Vitebsk open synagogue in painter's childhood home

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

    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’ capital Minsk.

    Welcoming them at the shul, the community’s chairman 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 his work and 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 apartment-sized space, 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.

    Separately, the Jewish community of the city of Simferopol in Crimea celebrated the inauguration of its first chief rabbi since its annexation by Russia in 2014. The new rabbi is Yehezkel Lazar, who is a son of Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia.

Community News

Autistic Josh excels in barmitzvah learning

Lianne Kolirin

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Autistic Josh excels in barmitzvah learning
UK News

Jewish groups challenge Lancashire kosher ban

Lianne Kolirin

Friday, December 22, 2017

Jewish groups challenge Lancashire kosher ban
World

Hate letters sent to Canadian synagogues

Lianne Kolirin

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Hate letters sent to Canadian synagogues
Community News

Less is more for Kenton as it prepares for 70th

Lianne Kolirin

Friday, December 29, 2017

Less is more for Kenton as it prepares for 70th
Community News

Christmas volunteering drive

Lianne Kolirin

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas volunteering drive
UK News

Israeli mining company listed on London Stock Exchange

Lianne Kolirin

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Israeli mining company listed on London Stock Exchange
Education news

Ofsted inspectors say primary 'requires improvement'

Lianne Kolirin

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Ofsted inspectors say primary 'requires improvement'
Analysis

A family legal dispute that would not go away

Lianne Kolirin

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A family legal dispute that would not go away
UK News

Judaism to get more primetime slots on BBC

Lianne Kolirin

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Judaism to get more primetime slots on BBC