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Rabbi on the wayRabbi on the way

Beirut synagogue gets a face lift

Lebanon and Syria restore their old Jewish houses of worship

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A worker is seen in front of Beirut's Magen Abraham synagogue. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
A worker is seen in front of Beirut's Magen Abraham synagogue. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

The last remaining synagogue in Beirut is undergoing restoration in preparation for its first rabbi in 30 years, the Christian Science Monitor reported on Thursday.

The Magen Abraham synagogue, established in the 1920s, was abandoned during the 1970s when most of Beirut’s Jewish community fled the civil war and tensions caused by the Arab-Israeli wars. Today there are barely 150 Jews living in Lebanon.

The last rabbi left in 1975, but now donations from the local Jewish community and Lebanese Jews abroad are funding a restoration project that began two years ago. The work is scheduled to be completed by the coming summer, when a new rabbi is due to oversee renewed synagogue activities.

Last year, President Bashar Assad approved funding to restore 11 synagogues in Syria. The decision to refurbish the synagogues was announced by the Syrian Ambassador to the US Imad Mustafa. The plan included the restoration of the Al-Raqi Synagogue in the old Jewish quarter of Damascus.

“This is not a gesture to the Israelis,” Mustafa said at the time. Commentators suggested it had more to do with improving ties with US Syrian-Jewish communities, which number some 75,000 individuals.

 

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