26.03.2015 17:22

First prayer in 46 years at historic synagogue in Turkey’s northwest

Worshippers gathered at the Great Synagogue in Turkey’s northwestern province of Edirne early on March 26, for the first prayer service at the renovated historic site in 46 years.
The synagogue, the subject of an outcry last year after Edirne Governor Dursun Şahin vowed to turn it into a museum rather than an active house of worship, was opened after four years of restoration work.

Turkey’s Jewish community head, İshak İbrahimzadeh, attended the morning service conducted by Davud Azuz, who also led the last service at the synagogue 46 years ago.

"I would like to thank those who contributed [to the re-opening of tht Great Synagogue], including Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç," Azuz said.

An opening ceremony is due to be held later in the day with the attendance of Arınç and Heath Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu.

As Europe’s second largest synagogue, the Edirne Synagogue was built in 1907 after a large fire in the city in 1905 that destroyed 13 separate synagogues. The synagogue was constructed using the architectural model of Vienna’s Leopoldstadter Tempel but was abandoned in 1983.

The temple was transferred to Thrace University to be used as a museum after its restoration, but after criticism from the Jewish community in Turkey the building was transferred back to the General Directorate for Foundations.

Edirne Governor Şahin d uproar when he told reporters on Nov. 21, 2014 that the synagogue would be turned into a museum, in retaliation for the Israeli military raid on Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque.

Şahin later offered an “apology,” claiming that his proposal to turn the synagogue into a museum as a reprisal for Israel’s policies “had no connection” to Turkish Jews.
Engin Özmen - Ali Can Zeray / Istanbul, March 26 (DHA)