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May 23, 2014 3:15 pm

Beirut Synagogue to Remain Closed Despite Renovation for Lack of Benches, Rabbi

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Beirut's Maghen Abraham Synagogue in 2004, prior to its restoration. Photo: WikiCommons.

Beirut's Maghen Abraham Synagogue in 2004, prior to its restoration. Photo: WikiCommons.

Beirut’s Maghen Abraham Synagogue was nearly destroyed during the country’s civil war and despite a nearly complete five-year, $5 million renovation, the Lebanese Muslim lawyer, the mukhtar, who represents the 400 remaining Jews in the country, said the community lacks a rabbi and there are no immediate plans to re-open the synagogue.

In an interview with Lebanon’s The Daily Star on Friday, Bassem al-Hout said he inherited the position held by his father since 1978, when the last Jewish mukhtar fled Beirut, and recalled visiting the synagogue as a child each Saturday.

Hout said his father “owned a building right next to the synagogue. Before the war, Jews were our neighbors.”

The synagogue, located in Wadi Abu Jamil, in downtown Beirut, was badly damaged during Lebanon’s 15-year Civil War that ended in 1990.

“The construction is basically done,” Hout told The Daily Star“But it doesn’t have any benches or furniture.”

The newspaper reported: “Moreover, there are no Jewish religious leaders, called rabbis, in Lebanon to lead religious proceedings, Hout said.”

The Daily Star said the Jewish community still plans to move a trove of historical documents related to Judaism in Lebanon into the synagogue.

Hout said his role is to facilitate the legal side of Jewish marriages, deaths, divorces and births in Lebanon. “Now I work for them, because they’re the people from my neighborhood. I work for them just as I work with any other clients,” he said, adding that some members of the Jewish community have been his friends since childhood.

“Muslims and Jews, we’re cousins,” Hout said.

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