Shul’s 100th Year Restoration A Proud Victory Over Communism

Hundreds gathered to celebrate the inauguration of the Chabad shul Vitebsk marking the completion of the building’s restoration in honor of the 100th year of the shul’s original establishment.

Photos by: Ilya Dolgopolsky

A beautiful 100 year old structure built in the heart of the city of Vitebsk as a shul was left in ruins after the communist regime took over Russia. This past Shabbos, the community had a grand Hachnasa Sefer Torah and inauguration for the building after completing reconstruction to repair it to its full previous stature.

The ceremony was led by the Rabbi of the ‘Bolshoi Bronia’ shul in Moscow, Rabbi Yitzchak Kogan, a Lubavitcher with roots in Vitebsk, whose family had a significant presence in the city. After obtaining the necessary approval from the government and collaborating with the local Jewish community, Rabbi Kogan oversaw the restoration of the shul to its previous glory.

The celebrations began on erev Shabbos, when a delegation arrived from Moscow, joining Rabbi Kogan in celebrating the first Shabbos in the newly refurbished shu’. Throughout the Shabbos weekend, tefilos, lectures, festive meals, and uplifting farbrengens took place on the premises.

On Sunday morning, on the arrival of the distinguished guest, Rabbi Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, the final letters of a beautiful Torah scroll were written. The inauguration of the Torah scroll began with a festive parade in which the Torah was placed under a chuppa and marched through the city streets all the way to the shul. The streets were secured by Belarusian police, and the local municipality cleaned and spruced up the entire area in honor of the new Torah.

Among the dignitaries attending were the Minister of Religion, the Governor of the region, and the Mayor, who participated for a prolonged period. Chabad shluchim and rabbis from various Belarusian communities were also present. These included a representative on behalf of the Rabbi of Minsk – Rabbi Shneur Zalman Deitsch, the Rabbi of Mogilev – Rabbi Menachem Mendel Alperovitz, the Rabbi of Brisk – Rabbi Chaim Rabinowitz, the Rabbi of Grodna – Rabbi Yitzchak Kaufman, the Rabbi of Bobruisk – Rabbi Shaul Habbo, the Rabbi of Vitebsk – Rabbi Malkiel Gorgodze, the Rabbis of Pinsk – Rabbi Moshe Fima and Rabbi Avraham Gvirtzman, the Chabad emissary to the village of Lubavitch – Rabbi Gabriel Gordon, and many rabbis and emissaries from Moscow and other cities.

The official ceremony took place in a massive tent erected in the synagogue’s courtyard, where prestigious honors were bestowed upon government representatives, distinguished donors, community leaders, and all those who contributed to the synagogue’s completion and the success of the celebration in Vitebsk, uniting the entire Jewish community of Belarus.

The impressive events left a lasting impression on the hearts of all Vitebsk’s Jewish community, and it is expected that they will be inspired to take part in various activities of the Jewish community throughout the year.

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