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NEWS - News of the Lodges

March 26, 2015

Edirne, Turkey

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B'nai B'rith Europe was present at a historic event – The re-opening of the Grand Synagogue in Edirne. Opened in 1906 after the big fire destroyed the existing dozen synagogues who served one of the largest Jewish communities on the Balkans at the time. About 20,000 Jews used to live in Edirne/Adrianopol and so, Sultan Abdulhamid ordered to build a new big synagogue. Presently, there are no Jews in Edirne. The synagogue collapsed in the 1980s.

On March 26 the synagogue was again full of worshipers, people who were born there, people which families who lived there (such as mine), and people who want the Jewish Turkish Community to stay in those lands as in the last few mileniums.

The Turkish government spent 2.5 million dollars for the restoration. In his speech, the Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc assured the crowd of about 1,000 people that the intention of the authorities is to preserve the ethnic and religious rights of the minorities.

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The Synagogue looked great in its new paint. But we cannot say that the there are no problems – just the opposite. In recent years we got used to listen to Turkish officials making nasty Anti-Semitic statements. And in his opening speech the president of the Jewish community in Turkey - Izak Ibrahimzade, had to remind us that all this is not new, and that the minorities and the Jews have been often called enemies from within. Edirne and the area witnessed pogroms in 1930's.

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The event triggered emotional scenes of reunions of old friends and neighbors. For example, a Turkish man in his 60's was intensively looking for Rosa. He heard that the synagogue is going to be re-open and he had to use the glimpse opportunity to find the older neighbor girl, who used to baby sit him, decades ago. Therefore he traveled more than a hundredkilometers from Izmir, where he lives now in attempt to maybe see his childhood friend who left for Israel in the 1960's. You cannot imagine what happened when he found his Rosa and how happy both of them were.

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Let's hope that the re-opening of the Edirne synagogue will give new hope for the Jews in Turkey to see their future in the country they have lived for thousands of years.

With fraternal regards,

Solomon Bali
Lodge Carmel in Bulgaria, Sofia