Friday, January 18, 2008
Synagogue in Belz
The hasidic synagogue in Belz.
Rabbi Shalom Rokeach personally helped build the city's large and imposing synagogue which was dedicated in 1843. The building resembled an ancient fortress, with three-foot thick walls, a castellated roof and battlements adorned with gilded copper balls. It could seat 5,000 worshippers and had superb acoustics. It stood until the Nazis invaded Belz in late 1939. Though the Germans attempted to destroy the synagogue first by fire and then by dynamite, they were unsuccessful. Finally they conscripted Jewish men to take the building apart, brick by brick. It was finally completely demolished in 1950.
Hasidic Judaism has its roots in what is now the Lviv region of Ukraine. It began as a movement of Jews seeking a more pious, charismatic and even mystical approach to their faith that extended beyond Jewish law.
Belzer Hasidism originated in 1817 when Rabbi Shalom Rokeach was inducted as rabbi of Belz. He was a profound Torah scholar and legendary miracle worker.
Rabbi Shalom led the construction of the town's immense synagogue and school complex. When it was finally dedicated in 1843, the synagogue looked like a fortress, surrounded by walls that were three-foot-thick. A castellated roof and battlements adorned the synagogue, which was able to seat 5,000 worshippers.
The Belz synagogue produced many great torah scholars, and the community thrived until the World War II invasion of German soldiers, who slaughtered families and razed the city. Though the Germans attempted to destroy the synagogue, first by fire and then by dynamite, they were unsuccessful. Finally they conscripted Jewish men to take the building apart, brick by brick, according to Wikipedia.
Belzer Hasids survived either by accepting Soviet citizenship and subsequent deportation to Siberia, or by fleeing through Europe with the help of Samaritans and financing from Belzer Hasids abroad.
Only the foundation of the immense Bet Midrash compound remains, although other smaller structures such as the community's Ishre Lev prayer center survived.
Posted by Larry Binenbaum (Schenker)