Turkey’s Jewish Community hosts iftar meal in appreciation of synagogue reopening
EDİRNE – Doğan News AgencyTurkey’s Jewish Community welcomed 700 people on June 21 for a fast-breaking iftar meal in the northwestern province of Edirne, expressing appreciation for the recent restoration of the historical Edirne Synagogue by the Directorate General of Foundations.
İshak İbrahimzadeh, the head of the Jewish community in Turkey, said they were pleased to reopen the Edirne Synagogue this year with the help of the directorate and wanted to “thank Edirne’s residents” through an iftar meal.
“We thought that the most convenient way to thank people in Edirne was to share an iftar meal with them. We thank them all very much. We returned to Edirne and found a more beautiful home than our own,” Ibrahimzadeh said.
Leading figures of the country’s Jewish community personally served guests at the Ramazan fast-breaking dinner, in a tent set up by the Social Solidarity Foundation.
Osman Güneren, the head of Edirne office of the General Directorate for Foundations, also attended the event.
The Edirne Synagogue was reopened on March 26 after a restoration period.
The synagogue had briefly become a subject of controversy, after Edirne Governor Dursun Ali Şahin told reporters last year that the synagogue would not be reopened to worship, as planned, but instead be turned into a museum, in retaliation for the Israeli military raid on Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque at the time.
Şahin later offered an “apology,” claiming that his proposal “had no connection” to Turkish Jews.
Four months after the governor’s headline-making remarks, the synagogue was reopened for the use of the Jewish community, in a ceremony that saw the participation of government officials as well as Governor Şahin.
As Europe’s second-largest synagogue, the Great Synagogue in Edirne was built in 1907 after a large fire in the city in 1905 destroyed 13 separate synagogues. The building was constructed using Vienna’s Leopoldstadter Tempel, which was later destroyed by the Nazis, as a model, but it was abandoned in 1983 due to a lack of worshippers.
The synagogue was later transferred to the local Thrace University to be used as a museum after its restoration, but after criticism from the Jewish community in Turkey it was handed back to the General Directorate for Foundations.