Lübeck’s Synagogue

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During last summer’s vacation in Hamburg we drove to Lübeck on a rainy Wednesday and were lucky to find that the synagogue was open.

Built in 1879 in the middle of the Hanseatic city, it is still in use although it was damaged in November 1938. The Lübeck Jewish community today numbers around 700 persons, most of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. as you can see in the first photo.

Local Jewish Community: Chalon

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The first mention of a Jewish community in Chalon-sur-Saone (Burgundy) dates back to 1075. In the Middle-Ages, what is now known as the main street was called Rue des Juifs. In 1306, the Jews were expelled from France by Philip IV but they were allowed to stay in Burgundy. They were “invited” back to France 9 years later.

In 1394 the Jews were expelled again (by Charles VI also know as Charles the Mad) and all the communities left France this time. Only after the French Revolution did they start coming back.

Local archives show that in Chalon one of the city cemeteries had a Jewish corner in 1836. Local Jews must have met in their homes for a while since the synagogue was only built in 1882.

It is the same synagogue which is still used today by the 21 Jewish families who live there.

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The whole building belongs to the community. The cellar is where kosher wine is stocked. the door at the top is the entrance to the shul common room and kitchen. The firt door, on the right, alsmot at the top is the entrance of the synagogue itself.

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The synagogue is still exactly as it was in 1882, except for paint work. The benches were modelled on those of the Grande Synagogue de Paris.

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The mechitza, on the left, is typical of French shuls of the late 19th century or early 20th century in that the separation is minimal.

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Women and Shul

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I had intended to write a post about how French Jews living in mid-sized town spend Yom Kippur. However, as I thought I might write a few things that would not throw a favorable light on some of the people who attended the services, I decided against it.

A post by In the Pink – where she writes beautifully about her sons being given aliyot on Simchat Torah while she was watching – and Raizy‘s comment on the same post have prompted me to write about it but from a different perspective.

I had planned to go to Paris for Yom Kippur, stay with friends and go to shul with them. But circumstances decided otherwise and I davened in the shul of my tiny French community.

To understand what this means I need to explain that, on paper, French Judaism is 95% Orthodox. In fact, this is how it should be understood: 95% of French Jews attend Orthodox synagogues, which is completely different.

On the first evening I was a bit late arriving (on foot) at the synagogue but it didn’t really matter as the service had stopped due to a shortage of one man to have a minyan. Soon a young man arrived (by car); his father had contacted (phoned) him to tell him about the problem.

The next morning I had decided to spend as much time as possible in shul so I got there a little before half past nine. We had a minyan but only just which meant that the men could not live the synagogue until at least one more arrived. It also means that we spent all day counting and re-counting every time we reached a moment where a minyan is required.

At the end of the day, while we were enjoying a hot cup of coffee with food to break the fast, one of the men came to me and congratuated me for my “faithful attendance” and insisted that it couldn’t have been easy since there was only one other woman with me for most of the day and as we didn’t really count.

In the Pink post’s reminded me that we can’t be called for an alyah in an Orthodox synagogue and my Yom Kippur experience reminded me that I couldn’t be included in a minyan. Although I have read different things on the subject, I still can’t help thinking what a shame it is that women and girls can’t share in what takes place in the synagogue during services. I wish ways could be found to respect a tradition I respect and love without excluding half of the congregation.

Update: You can read more on the subject at SuperRaizy, Isramom , Nad-ned Nad-ned, Mom in Israel and Adena.

Shuls in Hong Kong

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Ohel Leah

When planning a trip, I like to search the net and find a synagogue within walking distance of the place where I am staying. Unfortunately it is not always as easy as it may seem. So when I was getting ready to go and visit my brother and his family in Hong Kong, I wondered what I would find.

Thus, I discovered that in Hong Kong, the community has six synagogues as well as a community center. The first two seem to be independent whereas the four others are all part of the Jewish Community Center, even if, in Chabad’s case, the shuls are situated elsewhere.

Kehilat Zion is a Sephardic synagogue which was established in 1995 by Syrian businessmen of New York and the Sephardic Shecheber Center of Jerusalem. It is located in Kowloon and serves the Jewish community of Hong Kong and the many businessmen, tourists, and backpackers passing through the area.

– There is another Sephardic synagogue in Hong Kong, on the main island. Shuva Israel Synagogue and Community Center presents itself as as the only operating “Kolel” in the far east. There are also a restaurant and a store on its premices.

– As in most cities worldwide, there is a Chabad Lubavitch congregation on the main island and one in Kowloon. Like Kehilat Zion, the latter mainly caters for overseas businessmen and visitors.

– There is a liberal community: the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong. It holds its services within the Jewish Community Centre.

– The oldest shul in Hong Kong is Ohel Leah. It was built by Sir Jacob Sassoon and was opened in 1902. Like a number of Modern orthodox communities, it embraces diversity and thus welcomes Jews from diverse backgrounds and level of observance. Its present rabbi is Rabbi Martin van den Bergh. He was born in Holland in 1952, brought up in Zimbabwe, came to London in 1969 and gained Rabbinical ordination in Jerusalem in 1983. Before coming to Hong Kong, he was Rabbi of Wembley United Synagogue. This shul was the one I chose. I emailed the rabbi to get more information and got a prompt answer. I felt welcome and was sorry I had made other arrangements with my family and so couldn’t attend the Shabbat meal after the service. Maybe next time…

News from Other Blogs

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With Shavuot literally round the corner, I have little time to blog. So instead I prefer to point to some nice posts:

Ima Shalom deals with child friendly shuls in Tel Aviv.

Frumteacher weighs the positive and negative elements of her third school year as a teacher in the Netherlands.

In Simple Dinners, SuperRaizy provides us with tips to counteract rising grocery prices.

Leora offers a mouthwatering recipe for orange cake.

The Jew and the Carrot posts about eating local on Shavuot, complete with a recipe for lasagna.

Chag Sameach!