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Marc Chagall’s Belarus Hometown Celebrates First Synagogue In Century

(JTA) — The hometown in Belarus of the late artist Marc Chagall saw its first opening of a synagogue in over a century.

The Jewish community of Vitebsk, which is located 155 miles northeast of the Belarusian capital of Minsk, last month celebrated the inauguration of the new synagogue.

Vitebsk’s rabbi, Malkiel Gorgodze, affixed a mezuzah to the doorframe of the new synagogue, which was built with municipal support near the city’s Chagall museum. The new synagogue, Ohel David, is built of the red bricks for which Vitebsk — one of Belarus’ most beautiful cities — is known internationally.

Boasting a capacity of several hundred worshippers, the synagogue’s unusual design has one of its corners towering above the other three and a white streak accentuating the outline of its roof. Both facets making up the elevated corner have a single large and round window with a Star of David trapped in its frame.

“Vitebsk is a historically Jewish city,” Leonid Tomchin, the chairman of the Jewish community of Vitebsk, said at the event, which drew a crowd of several hundred people.

Tomchin noted that at the beginning of the 20th century, more than half of the city’s population was Jewish, with 64 synagogues in Vitebsk.

The vast majority of Jews who lived in what is today Belarus were murdered in the Holocaust. Today the city has a few dozen Jews.

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