Sunday, April 17, 2011

Azerbaijan: New Synagogue in Baku

Azerbaijan: New Synagogue in Baku
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) The community of "Mountain Jews" in Baku, Azerbaijan opened an impressive new synagogue on April 5th. The building was designed by architect Alexander Garber. The construction of the building was sponsored by the government. This follows a the large 3-story synagogue building that opened in the city in 2003. In all there five synagogues in Azerbaijan, with three in Baku. I don't know a lot about azerbaijan synagogues, so I'll try to collect some more information and present it at another time.

Here is the article about the opening provided by the Federation of Jewish Communities in the CIS:
New Synagogue for Mountain Jews of Baku (Thursday, April 7 2011)

BAKU, Azerbaijan — The opening of the new synagogue building for Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan, built with government funding in less than six months, took place on April 5. The crowd of attendees was so large at the opening ceremony in central Baku that the police had to block traffic.

Before the ceremony, the chairman of the Mountain Jews community in Azerbaijan, Semyon Ikhiilov, welcomed the distinguished guests. He gave a brief tour of the building, which was built in the historic Jewish district of Baku. Everyone was awed by the sanctuary, with its high ceilings and windows, an ornate ceiling, a luminous chandelier, comfortable seating, and an impressive Aron Kodesh (Torah ark). The other wing of the new synagogue holds a dining room and kitchen on the ground floor, a conference hall, chairman’s office and reception area on the second floor, and the library on the third floor.

“We Jews of Azerbaijan would like to express our sincere appreciation to our distinguished President Ilham Aliyev, who personally undertook that this house of worship be built! This is a unique case: in no other country in the world, not even in Israel, does the state build a synagogue at its own expense. This happens only in Azerbaijan,” emphasized Mr. Ikhiilov.

Read the entire article here
.

Baku used to have many synagogues which are now destroyed. Below you can see some images of these vanished buildings from old postcards published by V. Likhodedov in Synagogues. One of these was among the most impressive classical style synagogues of its time - built very much in the style of contemproary opera houses and concert halls.


4 comments:

Hels said...

Those post cards are precious relics of buildings that, I assume, have entirely disappeared. What was the size of the Jewish community before the war? What is it now?

Toghrul Novruzlu said...

Thanks for inquiring into the Jewish heritage of Azerbaijani capital, Baku. But I would like to add some points. While saying that many synagogues of Baku have been destroyed, it would be preferable to give an explanation since such a remark can lead people astray prompting them to reckon that the synagogues have been demolished by the locals of the city, Azerbaijanis. But indeed, many religious edifices including beautiful churches, mosques were destroyed after the Soviet invasion of Azerbaijan in 1920.
As for the synagogues given in the post cards, the first synagogue has not been destroyed. It functions now as the State Song Theater named after Rashid Behbudov. As for the second one, personally, I have no information. As for the third one, that synagogue is in Guba district of Azerbaijan, in a township namely, Red Township,( In Azerbaijani,''Qırmızı qəsəbə'' which houses the local mountainous Jewish community, which is more than 150 kilometers away from Baku.
Azerbaijan today is regarded as a state devoid of antisemitism and this secular country boasts its tolerance towards different ethnic minorities, Jews inclusive. But the local Jewish community has shrunk since Azerbaijan got independent in 1991. Because of economic difficulties, many Jews have migrated to Israel.

Toghrul Novruzlu said...

Thanks for inquiring into the Jewish heritage of Azerbaijani capital, Baku. But I would like to add some points. While saying that many synagogues of Baku have been destroyed, it would be preferable to give an explanation since such a remark can lead people astray prompting them to reckon that the synagogues have been demolished by the locals of the city, Azerbaijanis. But indeed, many religious edifices including beautiful churches, mosques were destroyed after the Soviet invasion of Azerbaijan in 1920.
As for the synagogues given in the post cards, the first synagogue has not been destroyed. It functions now as the State Song Theater named after Rashid Behbudov. As for the second one, personally, I have no information. As for the third one, that synagogue is in Guba district of Azerbaijan, in a township namely, Red Township,( In Azerbaijani,''Qırmızı qəsəbə'' which houses the local mountainous Jewish community, which is more than 150 kilometers away from Baku.
Azerbaijan today is regarded as a state devoid of antisemitism and this secular country boasts its tolerance towards different ethnic minorities, Jews inclusive. But the local Jewish community has shrunk since Azerbaijan got independent in 1991. Because of economic difficulties, many Jews have migrated to Israel.

Hels said...

Thank you Toghrul Novruzlu. Great information.