A massive pale beige building placed in the middle of one of the oldest parts of my hometown: tall white columns, wide steps and a silver domed roof is an elegant representation of the neoclassical style. Here we are standing in front of Moscow Choral Synagogue, the oldest synagogue of the city. It was built in 1891, but opened 15 years later after the granting of the October Manifesto by Nicholas II, which led to the total freedom of religion.
The interior design of the synagogue is striking in its eclectic splendor. It is created by the famous Russian architect, dreamer and master of stylization Roman Klein. Judaism does not prescribe strick rules on which the synagogue should be built, so Klein filled the space of the temple with plenty of visual metaphors and quotations. There are high rounded arches and wooden benches referring to Catholicism, colorful geometric patterns and mosaics like in the mosques of the East. Metallic twisted lamps with candles remind us of the Orthodox churches while the columns are just like the ones of the ancient Greek temples of Olympus. The interior is also full of the Jewish symbols: Menorahs, Stars of David and Eden Trees.
Today Choral Synagogue is the center of Jewish community life in Moscow. You can find the offices of the Chief Rabbi of Moscow and the Chief Rabbi of Russia here as well as the Rabbinical court, Torah learning center, a big library and a book store, educational and entertaining club for the seniors, kosher food store and kosher restaurant. The synagogue has strong connections with Jewish schools and pre-schools of the city.
In the begining of summer Moscow Choral Synagogue celebrated its 110th Birthday with a big concert of Jewish music, retrospective exhibition and some very special guests. I am so happy I had a chance to join this beautiful fest.