Jewish quarter in Antwerp, Belgium
Jewish quarter in Antwerp, BelgiumFlash 90

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo inaugurated the reopening of Antwerp’s great synagogue, calling the Jewish community a “cornerstone of our society.”

The Art Nouveau style building houses the main synagogue of the city’s Orthodox Jewish community, Congregation Machzikei Hadass.

Constructed over 100 years ago, the building was recently extensively renovated, The Brussels Times reported.

“The synagogue has been in existence for more than 100 years and thanks to this fantastic renovation, it is ready for the next 100 years,” De Croo said in his speech at the reopening. “The sober and timeless style of this building perfectly reflects the ancient Jewish traditions and customs.”

During his remarks, De Croo spoke of the “dark clouds” that Antwerp experienced in 1941 during an attack on the building by pro-Nazi thugs.

“Flemish antisemitic groups, encouraged by Nazi propaganda, carried out a horrific pogrom on the holy site where we stand today,” he said.

“During this violent attack on the ‘Osten Shul’, Jewish prayer books were burned and the entire contents of the synagogue were destroyed.”

The pogrom, known as the “Antwerp Kristallnacht,” was the start of anti-Jewish violence in the city, he added, and marked the beginning of the deportations of its Jewish community to concentration camps by the Nazis.

“This is not only the darkest page in Jewish history, but also in Belgian history,” he said.

“[The Jewish community] reminds us that Belgium’s strength lies in its diversity, a country where difference is not a problem but a wealth,” he added.

“As Prime Minister, I am therefore particularly proud that Belgium will remain a warm welcome for our Jewish community, which is a cornerstone of our society, both religiously and culturally.”