The Jewish community of Oryol, a city and administrative center in western Russia, rejoiced Monday at the return of the historical building of the local synagogue to its original purpose.
The synagogue was built by the community at the turn of the 20th century, but already in the 1920’s was appropriated by the state, serving as a college, a fire department and a pilots club among other functions. After a prolonged effort by Jewish organizations to re-claim the building, it was finally officially returned to the community this week.
“This is a historic event and we thank the city governor and the administration for taking this step,” said Oryol region chief rabbi Alexander Grishin in an interview to local media. “The synagogue is not only a place for Jewish prayer services, but also a real home – a community home which serves the congregation’s cultural and social needs.”
There are a few thousand Jews living in Oryol now, Grishin said, and for them the synagogue will finally provide a centralized place they can come to learn about their heritage, celebrate the holidays and socialize. The synagogue will also host a kindergarten and offices of various charity organizations.
The building’s payer hall is already open to the public, and the community is planning to reconstruct the exterior of the building to return it the original design and layout without interrupting its daily activities.