Wandering and Wondering

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Visit to a Jewish Synagogue

Today we visited the Jewish Synagogue in Florence for my World Religions class. The synagogue is located relatively close to where I live and is characterized by a large green dome that is easily visible from many parts of the city. The design is very interesting due to a mix of both Moorish/Islamic and Catholic architectural styles.

Jewish Synagogue in Florence

From 1570 to 1865 there was a Jewish ghetto in Florence where the Piazza della Republica is currently located. When the ghetto was closed down, the Jewish community began building the synagogue and it was officially opened in 1882.

When the Nazis occupied Italy during the second world war, many Jewish families were dressed to look like Catholics and were hidden in private Italian houses. The synagogue itself sustained a lot of damage, but the precious Torah scrolls (on which are written the word of God as it was handed down to Moses on Mt Sinai) were kept safe by hiding them in the countryside.

Many of the scrolls were lost, however, during the great flood of 1966. Even though the synagogue is located quite a long way away from the river, the water level rose to 2 metres above the floor and a faint line is still visible on the walls.

Today there are around 1000 members of the Jewish community who attend the synagogue, and there is a restoration program underway to restore it to its former glory.

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