The mayor of Samara and the district governor with the chief rabbi of Russia
The mayor of Samara and the district governor with the chief rabbi of RussiaAlexei Royman

In the center of Samara, Russia – on the banks of the Volga River – 117 years ago, a beautiful building was built as a synagogue.

Until the First World War, it was Europe’s largest synagogue. With the rise of decrees against Russia’s Jews the synagogue was closed and annexed by the Soviets. Since then, for nearly a century, the sound of prayers and learning have not been heard from the great synagogue which once contained a thousand seats.

After almost two decades of effort, the city’s rabbi and emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Deitch, succeeded in having the building returned to the Jewish community and obtaining the permits and plans to return the magnificent building to its former glory.

In an emotional and impressive ceremony, led by the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar Shlita – who had been working hard for this moment for many years – the cornerstone was laid towards the restoration which will take about two years.

The renovations will include the reconstruction of the main hall, as well as other parts of the building, which will be used by the Jewish community to further educational programs and all areas of Jewish life. The renovated center is scheduled to open just in time for the 120th anniversary since its initial building, to the great joy of thousands of Samara’s Jews.

The event, which was reviewed by the local media, and received much publicity, was attended by the governor of Samara and its districts, community leaders, friends and supporters who pledged their participation in the project, and many guests.