September 27, 2023

A pre-World War II Polish synagogue in Poland’s central city Lodz, which acted as a place of worship for Jews decades back, was recently closed down without prior warning.

Reicher Synagogue built 120 years ago is currently owned by local businesswoman, who claims building is unsafe and is seeking to erect apartment block in its place; local community activists attempt to fight decision, citing anti-Jewish sentiments.

The Reicher Synagogue is one of the few synagogues that survived the Holocaust and has been a place of worship for 120 years since its inauguration.

The synagogue was built in the end of the 19th century by the Reicher family foundation. The building was inaugurated in 1902, and in its early years was probably used as a currency exchange business until it became a synagogue. The only reason it managed to survive World War II was because it was sold to a German business partner and used for storing salt.
After the war was over, the property was returned to Jewish hands and was once again a place of prayer for Jews. Later, descendants of the Reicher family sold it, under the conditions that it remains unchanged and serves the Jews of Lodz.

Inside the Reicher Synagogue

Today the synagogue is owned by a local real-estate businesswoman. According to the Jewish community in Lodz, one day the locks of the building were changed and she announced that the community members were no longer allowed to enter the building, citing safety concerns related to the building’s age.
The Jewish community offered to renovate the building, but the owner was not interested. The community is convinced that the owner’s intentions are to demolish the building and construct a residential bloc in its place.

Inside the Reicher Synagogue

David Gurfinkel, a young Jew who lives in Lodz and heads the “Hakoach Lodz” organization, which works to promote Jewish culture, said that the synagogue used to see 20-30 worshippers a day. According to him, these numbers fluctuate according to the number of tourists from Israel, and holiday season. Recently, he shared, the local Jewish community has grown after the arrival of Jewish Ukrainian refugees.
Gurfinkel said that the owner “doesn’t want us there.”
“Unfortunately the law does not protect us. We’re fighting to get permission to pray there. This will be a disgrace if they don’t let us return to pray there,” he said.

Inside the Reicher Synagogue

He claims that the local community numbers about 100 Jews, but this number doesn’t include dozens of Jewish tourists and residents who are not permanent. He also recalled that prior to World War II, over 200,000 Jews lived in Lodz, meaning about one in every three residents were Jewish.
Meir Bolka, chairman of J-nerations, made a statement on the matter: “I spoke with David Gurfinkel this morning and offered him my help with legal matters, and I also examined financial options in order to find a solution and keep the synagogue open, and not allow its demolition by any means. Time and time again we encounter cases of hostility towards the few Jewish populations that remained in Poland, and there is no need to get into the definitions of racism because it is obvious.”

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