This week in Riga, after two years of restoration work, the doors of the Peitav Shul – the only synagogue in the Latvian capital – will finally open once again.
Reconstruction work on the building began in 2007 at a cost of more than $2.8 million. While most of the funds were contributed by foreign sponsors, financial support was also pledged by the Latvian government and about 100 other donors. The outstanding balance needed to complete the necessary work was raised from amongst members of the local Jewish community. About 1,000 local Jews donated sums ranging from $10 to $100,000. The names of all donors – regardless of the size of their contribution – are forever engraved on a plaque located at the synagogue’s entrance.
When work began on the synagogue it became apparent that the building was in much worse condition than originally thought. As a result, nearly 60 percent of the roof had to be replaced. When the funds dried out once again, two members of the Jewish community’s Board of Trustees – Leonid Esterkin and Arkady Sukharenko – each made a sizeable contribution.
“We are proud that our generation has that honor of restoring the synagogue to its former grandeur and of leaving it to future generations in this condition,” stated Mr. Sukharenko. “We are grateful to everyone who participated in this noble and important endeavor, and have invested their hearts and funds.”
What is most significant is that during the two years of reconstruction, worship in the synagogue did not cease even for one day. “You can engage in prayer at home, but the synagogue is the center of Jewish life, which is connected to all of life’s most important events. The synagogue’s renovation means that now, and a hundred years from now, this will be the center of the Jewish community of Riga,” remarked Rabbi Mordechai Glazman, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary serving in Latvia.
The opening ceremony of the renovated synagogue is expected will include President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, Riga Mayor Nil Ushakov, in addition to leaders from numerous Jewish communities and organizations operating in Latvia and elsewhere in the EU.