Restored synagogue to reopen in Turkey after government-funded restoration

Anthony Weiss

(JTA) — The Great Synagogue of Edirne will reopen its doors after a five-year government-sponsored restoration, albeit to a town now devoid of Jews.

The synagogue, which will be rededicated on Thursday, was rebuilt with $2.5 million of government funds that have restored its formerly collapsed domes as well as its vibrant polychrome interior, Reuters reported. The restoration has taken place despite the fact that Edirne, near Turkey’s western border with Greece and Bulgaria, has only one part-time Jewish resident.

That resident, Rifat Mitrani, grew up in Edirne and married his wife in the synagogue, but he now only lives in the city during the week to look after his two supermarkets and then returns to his family in Istanbul for Shabbat, according to Reuters.

The synagogue was built in 1907 and was modeled upon Vienna’s Leopoldstadter Tempel, which has since been destroyed, according to the Hurriyet Daily News. It closed in 1983.

In November of last year, the governor of Edirne threatened to reopen the building only as a museum and not as a synagogue, but he subsequently apologized for his remarks and backed down from his threat.