After three years of reconstruction at a cost of about CZK 100 million, the Great Synagogue of Plzeň, the second largest in Europe and one of the five largest in the world, has been reinaugurated.
There was a parade through the city from the nearby Old Synagogue, through Smetana’s Orchards and Klatovská třída, began an hour earlier, bringing a Torah scroll, the first five books of Moses from 1896, into the sanctuary. The one-metre high Torah was first carried by the Chief Rabbi of the Land, Karol Sidon.
In a procession with hundreds of people, other rabbis and representatives of Jewish communities from all over the country walked to the singing of the Psalms of David.
The chairman of the Plzeň Jewish community, Jiří Löwy, then placed the Torah in the sanctuary inside the synagogue.
“This will renew life in the large synagogue,” said Roman Štix, vice-president of the Plzeň community. He added that the Plzeň Jewish community now has 98 members.
The synagogue will be open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
Several times a week, the Pilsen-TURISMUS municipal organization has prepared guided tours of the synagogue and one of the towers, said Jaroslava Panušková, head of the city’s information center.
The Neo-Romanesque style building, decorated with oriental elements, was completed in 1893.
An EU grant used for the reconstruction allowed the interior of the synagogue and the neighbouring rabbi’s house to be repaired.
The synagogue will offer a new permanent exhibition, Here Lived the Jews. Eight screens on the first floor feature 1,800 photographs of places and monuments connected to Jewish life in the Plzeň region.
The monumental building with two 45-metre high towers and a three-aisle layout was built between 1890 and 1893 with donations from the Jews of Plzeň.
The synagogue was built when Plzeň had a population of over 2,500 Jews, services were held daily until 1941.
Its location between two houses and the fact that it served as a storage facility for confiscated Jewish property probably saved it from destruction by the Nazis.