February 19, 2007

Reopening of the Yeshiva Chachmei Synagogue in Lublin

From The European Jewish Press:

Poland’s Jewish community celebrated on Sunday the reopening of the Lublin synagogue in the building which once housed the largest rabbi school in Europe before being nearly destroyed in the Holocaust.

Michael Schudrich, Poland’s chief rabbi, performed theopening ceremony at the Yeshiva Chachmei synagogue inthe eastern Poland city. Schudrich said the reopening of the synagogue is asign of the "growing up" of Poland’s Jewish community.

With the affixing of the mezuzah – a special parchment with required Hebrew inscriptions - to the synagogue doorposts and the ceremonial entry of the Torah scroll, the synagogue once again became a place of worship for Poland’s Jewish community, 77 years after its original opening.

Dancing, singing and prayers accompanied the reopening of the first synagogue in Poland since WWII to be renovated entirely through the efforts of the country’s Jewish community and without state or foreign aid.

Around 10,000 Jews live today in Poland. Some 3. 5 Jews lived in Poland prior WWII, one- tenth of the population and the largest Jewish diaspora in the world.

Up to 3 million were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust, with the majority of survivors fleeing the country following the wave of post-war anti-Semitism.

Before WWII Lublin was one of the most important centres of the Jewish life, especially in field of education. Jews first settled in the city at the beginning of the 14th century and intensified after 1336, when King Casmir the Great gave the Jews so called “privilege of settlement”.

In 1930 Rabbi Meir Shapiro, creator of the Daf Yomi, founded the biggest Talmudic school in the world in Lublin, the Yeshiva Chachmei. During the Middle Ages Lublin was known as the "Jewish Oxford" due to its tradition of study and community of learned Jews.

Jewish life in the city developed till the outbreak of the war. In 1939 the Jewish population of Lublin was about 40,000 (40 percent of total population).

During the Holocaust Nazis killed not only almost all Jewish residents but destroyed the entire Jewish quarter. Most of Jewish Lublinians were murdered in the Majdanek concentration camp. Until 2003 the building of the former yeshiva was occupied by the Lublin Medical Academy but three years ago it was returned to the Warsaw Jewish Religious Community, to which the around 30-strong Lublin Jewish community belongs.