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More on Synagogue Demolition in Dushanbe
ISJM, July 25, 2008

Sergey Kravtsov, architect and architectural historian at the Center for Jewish Art sends the following update about the recent destruction of Tajikistan's only synagogue:

"Our architectural historian Zoya Arshavsky managed to organize the last-moment documentation of the compound. The work was done by a group of local Tajik architects. They drafted sketches and took measurements and photos on parallel with the bulldozer's work and lamentations of the community. In fact, the razed compound included three prayer halls: two of Bukharan Jews, and one of the Ashkenazim. It included also three courtyards: one separating the prayer halls, the second with the communal kitchen and mikveh, and the third one with the premises of the burial society. Women's area was not initially a part of this compound, but was added at certain stage of its existence.  The whole compound was one storey, with some lofty rooms. It was built about one hundred years ago. Our documentation, when properly accomplished, will include ground plan, major sections, and about 100 photographs. The compound had no exterior elevations. Zoya is interviewing Israeli informants, who still remember these synagogues. This is initial information, to be deepened as soon as more data arrives, and more analysis is done."

To Sergey's remarks I would like to add that the emergency documentation of the Dushanbe synagogue is a costly endeavor.  ISJM will accept contributions in the United States to assist with this work.  To send contributions directly to CJA, contact Sergey.

Tajikistan's synagogue demolished
By Samuel D. Gruber
ISJM, July 11, 2008

Reuters News Services has reported the demolition of the only synagogue in Tajikistan - a small one-story wood building in the capital city of Dushanbe.  The building was probably erected in the late 19th or early 20th century.  Demolition of the Jewish complex was first announced in 2004, and commenced in February 2006 when a mikveh and classroom building adjacent to the synagogue were razed.  The removal of the buildings makes room for a new presidential palace for President Imomali Rakhmon, who has ruled since 1992, and an adjacent park.  The Jewish community had previously proposed that the synagogue be renovated and incorporated into the new urban arrangement, but this proposal was rejected.

Instead, the Community, which only numbers a few hundred individuals, has been offered land in a more remote area of the city with permission to build a new synagogue, but it is far from certain that the small, aged and under funded community will be able to do so. Most Tajiki Jews – especially young people - emigrated to Israel after 1990.

The building belonged to the state because Soviet officials nationalized it in 1951 while allowing Jews to continue to worship there.  Tajikistan did not restitute the property as has been done on some occasions in other former SovietRepublics. The destruction of the synagogue should not be seen as a specifically anti-Semitic act. Rather, it is a sign that the Jews in Tajikistan are marginalized and of little account.  In such circumstances, an authoritarian government can make plans as it chooses.

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