Antwerp’s great synagogue was inaugurated after being renovated in the presence of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever.
The building in the Oostenstraat is the main synagogue of the Antwerp Orthodox Jewish community Machzikei Hadass.
Built in the Art Nouveau style, it was the last of a series of religious buildings constructed between 1865 and 1914, and has recently undergone renovation work.
“The synagogue has been in existence for more than 100 years and thanks to this fantastic renovation, it is ready for the next 100 years,” Prime Minister De Croo said at the ceremony. “The sober and timeless style of this building perfectly reflects the ancient Jewish traditions and customs.”
The prime minister also referred to the “dark clouds” that gathered over Antwerp in 1941. “Flemish antisemitic groups, encouraged by Nazi propaganda, carried out a horrific pogrom on the holy site where we stand today,” he recounted.
“During this violent attack on the ‘Osten Shul’, Jewish prayer books were burned and the entire contents of the synagogue were destroyed.”
This “Antwerp Kristallnacht” was the beginning of antisemitic violence in Antwerp, he continued. The Nazi occupiers began the infamous deportations of Jews to the various concentration and extermination camps.
“This is not only the darkest page in Jewish history, but also in Belgian history,” said De Croo, for whom the history of Belgium and the history of the Jewish community are closely linked. The Jewish community “reminds us that Belgium’s strength lies in its diversity, a country where difference is not a problem but a wealth.”
“As Prime Minister, I am therefore particularly proud that Belgium will remain a warm welcome for our Jewish community, which is a cornerstone of our society, both religiously and culturally.”