16 April 2023

Synagogues around the World:
Patrick Comerford’s personal tour

1, ‘Synagogues around the World’ with Patrick Comerford in Milton Keynes

‘Synagogues around the World’

Patrick Comerford

Milton Keynes and District Reform Synagogue,
Giffard Park, Milton Keynes,
3 pm, Sunday 16 April 2023

2, Yehuda Amichai, ‘Poem Without an End’

Yehuda Amichai’s ‘Poem Without an End,’ translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch, is quoted by Simon Schama in his Belonging, the Story of the Jews, 1492-1900 (Penguin, 2017):

Poem Without an End (שיר אינסופי)

Inside the brand-new museum
there’s an old synagogue.
Inside the synagogue
is me.
Inside me
my heart.
Inside my heart
a museum.
Inside the museum
a synagogue,
inside it
inside me
my heart,
inside my heart
a museum.

3, Personal Introduction:

I was born beside the principal synagogue in Dublin, on Rathfarnham Road, Terenure, many of my grandfather’s family lived in the Clanbrassil Street area, known as Dublin’s ‘Little Jerusalem, and they are mentioned in Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and I grew up knowing intimately many of the synagogues in that part of Dublin.

For many years now, I have visited and blogged about synagogues in almost 20 countries, visiting about 138 synagogues and Jewish sites and the sites of former synagogues, including 33 in Ireland, 41 in England.

Since I moved here over a year ago, I have had interesting opportunities to renew contact with distant family members who are part of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community at Bevis Marks, and I have been visiting synagogues throughout England, especially in the East End.

Outside these islands, I have many favourites in Greece, Venice, Prague, Kraków and Cordoba, but I’ve also visited synagogues in Albania, Austria, China, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey.

Charlotte and I are just back from Prague, where once again I visited the Jewish quarter, and you may ask later whether we went in search of the Golem.

4, Dublin: four synagogues in the part:

Crane Lane Synagogue, off Dame Street; Marlborough Green Synagogue; Stafford Street Synagogue; Saint Mary’s Abbey Synagogue; – and Ballybough Cemetery.

5, Dublin: Little Jerusalem:

Saint Kevin’s Parade Synagogue; Oakfield Place Synagogue ; Lennox Street Synagogue; the Chevrah Tehillim Synagogue, Lombard Street West; The Beth Hamedresh Hagadol Synagogue, Walworth Road, and the Irish Jewish Museum; and Camden Street Synagogue.

These are the synagogues and the streets of Chaim Herzog and Max Levitas.

6, Dublin: some more modern synagogues:

The Dublin Hebrew Congregation, Adelaide Road; United Hebrew Congregation, Greenville Hall Synagogue, South Circular Road; The Dublin Jewish Progressive Synagogue, Leicester Avenue, Rathgar; and Terenure Synagogue, Rathfarnham Road.

7, Inside the Irish Jewish Museum:

How the Beth Hamedresh Hagadol Synagogue on Walworth Road became the Irish Jewish Museum.

8, Dublin Jewish Progressive Synagogue, Rathgar:

The Dublin Jewish Progressive Synagogue, Leicester Avenue, Rathgar, is now Dublin’s oldest working synagogue. The foundation stone was laid in 1952. The first members included Dr Bethel Solomons (1885-1965), the Master of the Rotunda Hospital and a former Irish rugby international (1908-1910), who became the congregation’s first president; Abraham Jacob (Con) Leventhal (1896-1979), a friend of Samuel Beckett, and who interviewed James Joyce in Paris on the day of the publication of Ulysses; and Dr Ernst Schreyer, a prominent lawyer in Germany before World War II, who taught German at TCD.

This was the childhood shul of Rabbi Jackie Tabick, the first Irish-born female rabbi, who was born in Dublin in 1948 and ordained in 1975.

9, Chabad House, Rathmines:

The Chabad House and Deli 613, Upper Rathmines Road, opened in time for Pesach this year, just days after it was announced that the site of Terenure Synagogue is to be sold.

10, 5 Synagogues in Cork:

A lost Sephardic synagogue on Kemp Street; Cork Hebrew Congregation, South Terrace Synagogue; Cork Hebrew Congregation, 15 Union Quay; The Remnant of Israel, 24 South Terrace; Munster Jewish Community, ‘a community without a shul.’

The earliest Jewish presence in Cork was in Jewish Youghal, where a Sephardic Jew was elected Mayor in the late 16th century

11, More provincial synagogues in Ireland:

There were synagogues in L/Derry, Limerick, where there were once two on the one street, Waterford, where the former synagogue on Manor Street is now a takeaway shop named ‘Babylon’, and perhaps in Wexford.

Ireland’s smallest synagogue may be the Beth El synagogue, Rainsford Lordge, Bunclody, Co Wexford.

12, The seven synagogues of Prague:

Charlotte and I were back in Prague last week. Tourists and visitors are told that Prague has six synagogues: The ‘Old-New’ Synagogue, home of the Golem; the High Synagogue; the Maisel Synagogue; the Klausen Synagogue; the Spanish Synagogue; and the Pinkas Synagogue.

But last week I found a seventh: the Jubilee or Jerusalem Synagogue.

13, A favourite in Prague: the Spanish Synagogue:

There is an interesting museum in the Spanish Synagogue. Why did it survive? What are its links with Franz Kafka?

14, The synagogues of Greece (1), Corfu:

The Nuova or New Synagogue, Corfu’s only surviving synagogue.

15, Synagogues of Greece (2), Thessaloniki:

The Monasterioton Synagogue, on Syngrou Street is the only surviving, working synagogue in the city once known as the ‘Mother of Israel’.

16, Synagogues of Greece (3), Jewish Rhodes:

The Kahal Shalom Synagogue and the Seahorse Fountain.

17, A Greek favourite: Etz Hayyim in Chania:

The Etz Hayyim Synagogue (18 June 2018)

I have also searched for the sites of the mediaeval synagogues in Iraklion and Rethymnon.

18, Italy (1), Padua, Bologna and Rome:

The Italian Synagogue and the ghetto, Padua; the synagogue on Via Mario Finzi, Padua; and the Great Synagogue of Rome.

19, Italy (2), the Synagogues of Venice:

The Scuola Spagnola; the Scuola Grande Tedesca; the Scola Levantina; the Scuola Canton; the Scuola Italiana; the Beit Chabad, the New Ghetto; as well as the old and new Jewish cemeteries on the Lido, and visiting Giudecca: was this the original home of the Jews of Venice?

20,A favourite in Venice:

The Scuola Spagnola.

21, Germany:

The The New Synagogue, Oranienburger strasse, and the Alten (Old) Synagogue.

22, Hungary:

Hungary’s synagogues are of interest to everyone interested in Irish literature because James Joyce says the family of Leopold Bloom is originally from Hungary, and more particularly from Szombathely.

Earlier this year, Charlotte and I visited the Great Synagogue, Dohany Street, Budapest; and the Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park.;
23, Austria:

I have visited the Stadttempel or City Synagogue, Seitenstettengasse, in Vienna, the Jewish Museum with the site of the mediaeval Or-Sarua Synagogue, and seen exhibits from the Sephardic prayer house, the former ‘Turkish Temple’ or Sephardic Synagogue; the former Montefiore Prayer House (Bethaus Montefiore), and the Holocaust Memorial.

24, Albania:

Albania has a unique record from World War II.

The remains of the fifth-century synagogue of Onchesmos have been preserved in Saranda

25, Morocco:

Morocco has a unique record among Muslim-majority countries in North Africa and the Middle East, and Tangier has its own Rue Synagogue.

In Tangier, I have visited the Synagogue Rebbi Akiva on Rue Synagogue, originally built in the mid-19th century, and the Moshe Nahon Synagogue.

26, Seven synagogues in Kraków:

Many of us have visited Auschwitz. But there is a vivid Jewish history in Kraków, where I have visited seven surviving synagogues: the Old Synagogue, the Remu'h Synagogue, the Wolf Popper Synagogue, the High Synagogue or Synagoga Wysoka on Jozefa Street, the Isaak Jakubowicz (now home to the Chabad community in Kraków) and the Kupa Synagogue, both on Kupa Street, and the Tempel Synagogue on Miodowa Street.

I have twice had to cancel visits to Warsaw, where I had planned to visit the site of the Great Synagogue, destroyed by the Nazis in 1943, and the Nożyk Synagogue, the only surviving pre-war synagogue in Warsaw.

27, Porto, Portugal (1):

The story of the revival of Jewish life in Portugal among the descendants of crypto-Jewish or converso families is one of the amazing stories of European Jewry in the 20th century.

The Kadoorie Mekor Haim (‘Spring of Life’) Synagogue in Porto is one of the largest synagogues in western Europe.

28, Porto, Portugal (2):

In Porto, I have also visited the site of the first synagogue in Porto at Igreja dos Grilos, the site of the 14th century synagogue at Rua do Comércio do Porto, and the site of the synagogue at the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Vitória.

29, Bratislava, Slovakia:

The places I have visited in Slovakia include the site of the mediaeval synagogue on Uršulínska Street, the Synagogue at Heydukova ulica 11, the tomb of Chatham Moser, the Jewish Museum on Židovská Street, and the Holocaust Memorial and the site of the former Neolog Synagogue.

30, Some Jewish sites in Spain:

The places to visit in Spain include the site of old synagogue at the Church of Sant Jaume on Calle Ferran, Barcelona; the synagogue and Sephardic heritage centre on Plaza de Judería, Málaga; the former synagogue at the Church of Santa María la Blanca and the Jewish Interpretive Centre, Ximenez de Enisco in Seville, and the lost synagogues of Valencia.

31, A Spanish favourite, Córdoba:

Perhaps the most striking place to visit in Spain is the synagogue built by Simon Majeb in 1315 in Córdoba.

32, Mediaeval and early modern London:

Walking around the streets of London, it is still possible to see the sites associated with mediaeval Jewish life, before the great expulsion, and some of the early synagogues when Jewish life returned to England after the mid-17th century.

These include: the site in Old Jewry of the Great Synagogue of London until 1271; the earlier site of a synagogue at Threadneedle Street, built in 1231;
And then, later, we have:

The site of the former Creechurch Lane Synagogue; the Bevis Marks Synagogue; the site of the former Great Synagogue, Duke’s Lane; the former Hambro’ Synagogue; and the former New Synagogue, Leadenhall Street.

33, A London favourite:

There are many reasons why I feel a strong affinity with the Bevis Marks Synagogue.

34, The East End, a miscellany (1):

Where is the real East End?

The site of the former Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue, Whitechapel; the former Brick Lane Synagogue; Sandy’s Row Synagogue; and the East London Central Synagogue, also known as Nelson Street Synagogue, founded as the Nelson Street Sfardish Synagogue.

35, The East End, a miscellany (2):

Others include:

the former Artillery Lane Synagogue, near Liverpool Street Station; and the former Gun Street Synagogue, near Spitalfields.

the Princelet Street Synagogue;

on Hanbury Street there was: the Spital Square Poltava Synagogue, and other synagogues on Heneage Street; the Konin Synagogue, at No 48; the Glory of Israel and Sons of Klatsk Synagogue, No 50½; the Poltava Synagogue, No 50½; the Brethren of Suwalki Synagogue, No 56; the Hanbury Street Synagogue, No 60; the Lovers of Peace Synagogue; and the Voice of Jacob Synagogue, both at Nos 183/185.

the Kehillas Ya’akov, Commercial Road, Stepney.

There are so many more, many of them known to your parents or grandparents, or even to you yourself.

36, Outside London (1):

The Cambridge Synagogue and Jewish Student Centre; the Oxford Jewish Centre; site of mediaeval synagogue in Oxford; and the Oxford Centre for Hebrew Jewish Studies.

37, Outside London (2):

Post-stroke hospital treatment and follow-up rest also provided opportunities to continue my searches in York and Sheffield.

In York, these visits have included Clifford’s Tower and the site of the massacre of 1190; the mediaeval and modern synagogues of York; and the mediaeval Jewish cemetery at Jewbury.

The synagogues I have searched for in Sheffield include Sheffield Hebrew Congregation, or the Great Synagogue, Figtree Lane; Sheffield Hebrew Congregation, or the Great Synagogue, North Church Street; Sheffield Central Synagogue, Campo Lane; Sheffield Hebrew Congregation, Wilson Road, Ecclesall; United Synagogue, Sheffield, Psalter Lane; and Sheffield and District Reform Jewish Congregation (19 August 2022)

I have also visited synagogues and Jewish sites in Peterborough, Cornwall, the mediaeval synagogue in Sheep Street, Northampton; and the present Northampton Hebrew Congregation on Overstone Road.

38, And another favourite:

I have been warmly welcomed here in Milton Keynes and District Reform Synagogue.

And I have also looked for the sites used during World War II by the Wolverton United Synagogue Membership Group, or the Haversham Jewish Community in New Bradwell and Haversham.

39, Some missing synagogues:

I could said more about Helsinki Synagogue and Finland's Jewish community; the Jewish community of Hong Kong; synagogue sites I have visited in Malta, or the synagogues I missed out on visiting, including the last surviving synagogue in Yangon in Myanmar.

Before I began blogging, there were synagogues from Alexandria to the Cape, in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel and the Middle East, in Bucharest, Paris and other parts of Belfast. And I still have not given Jewish Belfast, Jewish Birmingham or Jewish Birmingham the visits I know will be very interesting.

40, Conclusions:

Any Questions?

Why do I do this?

Is this a continuing project?

41 Why this continues:

42, Closing image:

43, Making links:

Finding links to the places we have discussed this afternoon.

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (8) 16 April 2023

The Cathedral in Mitropolis Square, Rethymnon, was rebuilt after World War II and is modelled on the Church of Evangelistria on Tinos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter (16 April 2023), often known as Low Sunday. Easter Week has continued all last week. But today is Easter Day in the calendar of the Orthodox Church, and last night I attended the Easter Liturgy in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford.

Later this afternoon, I have been invited to speak at Milton Keynes and District Synagogue about synagogues I have visited around the world, which includes some of the synagogues I have visited in Prague last week, and some of the synagogues I have visited in Budapest, Venice, London and Dublin in recent months.

But, before this day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

As this is Easter Week in the Orthodox Church, I am reflecting each morning this week in these ways:

1, Short reflections on an Orthodox church in Crete;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside the Cathedral of Rethymnon on a recent Good Friday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Cathedral in Rethymnon:

Although Rethymnon is centuries old as a city, with classical, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman buildings around every corner, I know of no surviving remains of Rethymnon’s mediaeval cathedral, which was destroyed in a raid by Algerian corsairs in 1571.

The Cathedral of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple is a relatively new building. It occupies most of Mitropolis Square was first built in 1834 on the site of an earlier church.

The second cathedral was badly damaged during World War II and was rebuilt as a miniature of Evangelistria, the great basilica on the island of Tinos, so that the present cathedral is refreshingly modern in appearance, both inside and outside.

The tall bell tower beside the cathedral was built in 1899 as a response by the Christians of Rethymnon to the tall minaret built beside the nearby Nerantzes Mosque. The money to build the bell tower was raised through selling postage stamps and a fundraising drive by the wine merchants of the town.

Inside the Cathedral of Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 20: 19-31 (NRSVA):

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28 Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29 Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The bell tower, seen from the southern porch of the Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Safeguarding the Integrity of Creation.’ This theme is introduced this morning by USPG’s Regional Manager for East Asia, Oceania and Europe, Rebecca Boardman, who reflects on ways to get the climate justice conversation started, in the light of this week’s International Earth Day:

‘There are few places where we might feel comfortable and safe to have difficult conversations. I would like to hope that the Church is one; a space to challenge our own thinking, to reflect and lament on where we have gone wrong, and a space for radical creativity and hope.

‘Churches are places where we need to inspire action on the planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Places where we can debate and dream, where those who society places on the margins are placed at the centre. Places where justice for the planet and all people are at the heart of action on issues like fuel poverty, food waste, drought, and the impact of natural disasters.

‘By showing how these crises are linked to our faith, a sermon focusing on care for creation can be a great way to start these conversations. To inspire preachers, each week the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, of which USPG is a member, encourages authors from across the Anglican Communion to provide a reflection on the lectionary readings from the perspective of creation care and ecological justice.’

To find out more and sign-up visit: preachingforgodsworld.org

The prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (16 April 2023, the Second Sunday of Easter) invites us to pray:

Show us how to touch the earth lightly
and challenge one another boldly
to cherish the world in our care.
Let our doubt and greed
give way to faith and belief
that another world is possible,
Our Lord and our God!


Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to rise again for our justification:
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you
in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him:
deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Inside the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in the centre of Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org