Daily Israel Report

Rabbi Kook's Synagogue Reopened after 30 Years

Luminary sage's synagogue in southern Tel Aviv reopens its doors with an informal celebration as 75th anniversary of Rabbi Kook's passing nears.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 8/10/2010, 10:04 PM / Last Update: 8/10/2010, 9:59 PM

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The synagogue of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, luminary sage and father of modern religious Zionism, was reopened Monday in southern Tel Aviv 30 years after it closed its doors. The synagogue, Shaarei Torah, is located in the Neveh Shalom neighborhood just north of Yafo (Jaffa).

The synagogue's gabbai (manager), Roni Steiner, told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language service that the synagogue / study hall (beit midrash) will soon be formally rededicated. Following the informal re-dedication Monday, amid singing and dancing, the synagogue is now open for daily prayers. The reopening of the synagogue coincides with the 75th anniversary of Rabbi Kook's passing, which will be marked Friday.

"There are 150 seats [in the synagogue],” Steiner explained. “Once, there was not a single free seat here during the High Holy Days. I am now calling on people to come back and hold prayers, selichot etc. here.”

The synagogue was sold to a private Jewish-American investor who planned to tear it down and build an apartment building in its place. Various elements, including spiritual activists, religious politicians and the Tel Aviv Municipality, interceded and seem to have succeeded in staving off this threat to the synagogue's existence. However, a workshop that adjoined the synagogue is still in danger of being torn down. The workshop is also of historic significance relating to Rabbi Kook and his teachings regarding the combination of religious life and working for a living.

Rabbi Kook was the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of the Jewish population in the Land of Israel in modern times, and had great love and respect for the secular Zionist movement, while criticizing it and warning of its dangers. He is considered by some of his followers to have come as close to the degree of prophet as is possible in modern times.