Byculla synagogue to reopen for Hanukkah | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Byculla synagogue to reopen for Hanukkah

mumbai Updated: Dec 01, 2010 01:08 IST
HT Correspondent

The Magen David Synagogue at Byculla will re-open for prayers on Wednesday after undergoing renovation work for a year.

Israeli ambassador, Mark Sofer, will be the chief guest for the reopening ceremony along with Orna Sagiv, consul general of Israel, along with the Levy family, which donated Rs 75 lakh for the renovation.

The re-opening also coincides with the eight-day Jewish ‘festival of lights’, Hanukkah, which begins on December 2.

The synagogue has been re-plastered, received a fresh coat of sky-blue and white paint and has new wooden doors and window frames.

The Victorian-style synagogue with tall frontal pillars and a clock tower was built in 1861 by David Sassoon, a Jewish businessman and philanthropist. It was later expanded in 1910, owing to the increasing population of Jews in the city.

The synagogue premises also houses two elementary schools, originally built for the Jewish children. Today the schools have 98% Muslim students.

The entire property is spread over 10,000 sq ft of area.

Jews, who come to pray at the synagogue, said about 10 devotees come regularly to the synagogue.

“I stay at the guest house on the synagogue premises. This is like a second home to me.

I am glad to see the place changing for good,” said David I Payne, 63.

The synagogue owes its new look to Moshe Levy, 65, a US-based Jew who runs a global security solutions company.

He had donated Rs 75 lakh for the renovation.

Three years ago when Levy visited the city he was moved by the deteriorated condition of the synagogue. He along with his son Isaac Levy, 38, decided to raise money to renovate the synagogue.

“The fact that there were schools with majority Muslim students, next to the synagogue, motivated us to sponsor the renovation. We also witnessed that people of the two religions were getting along well.

We decided to enhance this bond by enhancing the condition of the synagogue, so that more Jews can visit it for offering prayers. It signifies the unification of two religions,” said Isaac.

“As part of the renovation work, the walls of the synagogue have been plastered and painted, doors and windows have been repaired, along with other beautification work,” said Solomon Sopher, chairman of the Sir Jacob Sassoon Charity, which takes care of the synagogue.

“We plan to celebrate the festival by lighting Hanukkah lamps in front of the Gateway of India on December 6.”