A historical synagogue, the subject of an outcry due to a governor’s remarks to turn it into a museum, is waiting to be reopened for services at the end of the month.
The Great Synagogue, in the northwestern province of Edirne, will open on March 26, after undergoing a four year restoration.
Jewish community head, İshak İbrahimzadeh, who visited the synagogue before the opening ceremony, said the opening of the restored synagogue was a milestone that made him very happy.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Turkey’s chief rabbi, İshak Haleva, will attend the opening, along with many other Jewish community members from both Turkey and abroad.
As Europe’s second largest synagogue, the Edirne Synagogue was built in 1907 after a widespread fire in 1905 that burnt down 13 separate synagogues. The synagogue was constructed using the architectural model of Vienna’s Leopoldstadter Tempel and abandoned in 1983.
The temple was transferred to Thrace University to be used as a museum after its restoration but after much criticism from the Jewish community in Turkey, the building was transferred back to the General Directorate for Foundations.
Edirne Gov. Dursun Şahin created uproar when he told reporters on Nov. 21, 2014, that the synagogue would be turned into a museum, citing the recent Israeli raid on the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
“While those bandits blow winds of war inside al-Aqsa and slay Muslims, we build their synagogues,” Şahin said.
Şahin later offered an “apology” to Haleva, claiming that his proposal to turn the synagogue into a museum as a reprisal for Israel’s policies over Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque “had no connection” to the Turkish Jewish community.