Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Oldest Sephardic Synagogue in the World is in Dubrovnik

The Oldest Sephardic Synagogue in the World is
in Dubrovnik. This city is on my "A" list, and has been, even before I learned this little fact. Something about Dubrovnik and its history and charm has always beguiled me. Here's an excerpt from Jennifer Baljko's feature in the Jewish Exponent:

"One of these treasures is the Synagogue on "Jewish Street." The building, like the city, has survived its share of natural and human disasters. Established in the 14th century and rebuilt in 1652 after a devastating earthquake, the synagogue has held its ground through two world wars, the Communist regime and, more recently, the Homeland War.

The building, still used by Dubrovnik's small Jewish community -- said to number about 50 people -- is the oldest Sephardic synagogue in the world and the second-oldest in Europe, according to local sources and the Beit Hatfutsot's Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora.

Today, it also houses a museum of valuable artifacts, including Torah scrolls dating back to the 13th or 14th century. The scrolls are thought to have been brought to Dubrovnik by Sephardic exiles expelled from Spain around 1492. These scrolls contain some of the oldest examples of Hebrew script, a calligraphy style that is markedly different from the script found in most Torah scrolls.

You'll also find other notable pieces in the museum, such as a Chanukah lamp from Central Europe that dates back to the 18th or 19th century; and historical decrees that limit or restore Jewish civil liberties, depending on the year"

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