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Kobrin synagogue



Kobrin synagogue (Brest region, Belarus) is a monument of eclectic architecture with the elements of classicism. The construction of the synagogue dates back to the 18th century.

Before the WWII there were more than 7 synagogues in Kobrin and more than half of the population were Jews. According to the census of 1897, there were 25,349 Jews in Kobrin district (including 6,738 in Kobrin) which made up 64.8% of the total population.

There were two Jewish schools in Kobrin, one of them – “Tarbuta” with teaching in Hebrew and another one with teaching in Yiddish.

Ones of the most famous spiritual leaders of Kobrin community of the 17th - the beginning of the 18th century are the preacher Bezalel ben Shlomo from Kobrin and Rabbi Yaakov ben David Shapira. Since 1892 to 1897 H. Berlin was the rabbi of Kobrin community. Spiritual life of Kobrin Jewish community in the 19th century was greatly influenced by Hasidism - the dynasty of tzadikim of Kobrin: Moshe ben Yisrael, Noah Naftali, David Shlomo, Moshe Aharon, Baruch Iosef Zak.

Kobrin synagogue is unique by its architecture and size: it is one of the largest in Belarus, comparable to only the synagogue of Minsk. During the war the synagogue became a ghetto center and all the Jewish population from all over the district was concentrated over there. When the ghetto was liquidated, the last execution was carried out right there, at the walls of the synagogue. After the war Soviet authorities closed the synagogue. Subsequently, the activity of the synagogue was never renewed.

In 2003 the "Jewish Religious Community" was officially registered in Kobrin. The organization began to actively deal with the restoration of the synagogue. The plan was as follows: the biggest part of the building was planned to be given to create a cultural center of Western Belarus Jews; a Historical and Ethnographical Museum dedicated to the Jews of Brest region was to be opened nearby; according to the plan, the functioning synagogue was to be located in a separate wing of the building. The total cost of the project was estimated at about 1 million US dollars.

At the moment the building is not in use and is increasingly falling into decay (sponsors’ assistance is needed for the reconstruction). But it is still impressive from the point of view of its size, shape and atmosphere.