Monday, July 7, 2008

Tajikistan's synagogue demolished

Tajikistan's synagogue demolished

(ISJM) Reuters News Services has reported the demolition of the only synagogue in Tajikistan - a small one-story wood building in the capital city of Dushanbe. The building was probably erected in the late 19th or early 20th century. Demolition of the Jewish complex was first announced in 2004, and commenced in February 2006 when a mikveh and classroom building adjacent to the synagogue were razed. The removal of the buildings makes room for a new presidential palace for President Imomali Rakhmon, who has ruled since 1992, and an adjacent park. The Jewish community had previously proposed that the synagogue be renovated and incorporated into the new urban arrangement, but this proposal was rejected.

Instead, the Community, which only numbers a few hundred individuals, has been offered land in a more remote area of the city with permission to build a new synagogue, but it is far from certain that the small, aged and under funded community will be able to do so. Most Tajiki Jews – especially young people - emigrated to Israel after 1990.

The building belonged to the state because Soviet officials nationalized it in 1951 while allowing Jews to continue to worship there. Tajikistan did not restitute the property as has been done on some occasions in other former Soviet Republics. The destruction of the synagogue should not be seen as a specifically anti-Semitic act. Rather, it is a sign that the Jews in Tajikistan are marginalized and of little account. In such circumstances, an authoritarian government can make plans as it chooses.

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