Plovdiv Synagogue

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The Zion Plovdiv Synagogue is a synagogue in the city of Plovdiv located in Bulgaria. This synagogue is one of the only 2 synagogues that remain active to this day in Bulgaria (with the Sofia Synagogue).


According to the archaeological research a Synagogue had been constructed in ancient Philippopolis dating back to the reign of Emperor Alexander Severus in the first half of 3rd century AD. It is followed by several renovations, the last one – from the beginning of 5th century (M. Martinova). In 1360, when the city was conquered by the Turks certain Jews who emigrated from Aragon in 1492 settled in Philippopolis and built a synagogue called "K. K. Aragon," which was standing in 1540, but is no longer in existence. In 1892<ref name="Jenc">Template:Jewish Encyclopedia</ref> following Bulgaria liberation from Ottoman domination in 1878 one of the first synagogues to be erected was the (Zion) Synagogue in Plovdiv. It was built in the remnants of a small courtyard in what was once a large Jewish quarter called Orta Mezar during the Turkish rule. The location of the Sephardic synagogue is now called Tsar Kaloyan Street 13. Before the second world war the Jewish quarter had a population of 7000.<ref name="Singer"/> The Synagogue is one of the best-preserved examples of the so-called "Ottoman-style" synagogues in the Balkans. According to author Ruth E. Gruber, the interior is a "hidden treasure…a glorious, if run-down, burst of color."Template:Citation needed An exquisite Venetian glass chandelier hangs from the center of the ceiling, which has a richly painted dome. All surfaces are covered in elaborate, Moorish-style, geometric designs in once-bright greens and blues. Torah scrolls are kept in the gilded Aron-ha-Kodesh.

In 1904 the Jewish community possessed three other synagogues: Jeshurun, built in 1710 according to the inscription on a marble slab in the synagogue; Ahabat-Shalom, built in 1880; Shebe? A?im or Maf?irim, founded in 1882 by emigrants from Karlovo, whence the Jews fled during the Turko-Russian war (1877-1878).<ref name="Jenc"/>


Since the end of the eighteenth century the following have been chief rabbis of the city:

  • Abraham Sidi (according to Zedner, l.c. p. 397, "Sa'id"; 1790-1810);
  • Judah Sidi (1810–12), brother of the preceding, and author of Ot Emet, on the laws relating to reading the Torah, Salonica, 1799; and of Ner Mi?wah, on Maimonides' Yad and his Sefer ha-Mi?wot, with indexes to the hermeneutic works of Solomon and Israel Jacob Algazi, ib. 1810-11;
  • Abraham ibn Aroglio (1812–19);
  • Abraham Ventura (1823–29);
  • Moses ha-Levi (1830–32);
  • Jacob Finzi (1832–33);
  • ?ayyim ibn Aroglio (1833–57), with Abraham ibn Aroglio joint author of Mayim ha-?ayyim, responsa, Salonica, 1846;
  • Moses Behmoiras (1857–76); ?ayyim Meborah (1876-92);
  • Ezra Benaroyo who has held office since 1892.<ref name="Jenc"/>
  • Shmuel Behar


Nowadays, the Jewish community in Bulgaria is very small (863 in 1994)<ref name="Singer"/> because of the Holocaust, secularity of the local Jewish population due to many years of communism and subsequent Aliya (Jewish immigration to Israel).

In 1994 the synagogue was mostly inactive.<ref name="Singer">Template:Cite news</ref> but the community is undergoing a revival In 2003 the synagogue was restored. The city's mayor, the U.S. and Israeli ambassadors to Bulgaria, were present at its inauguration. The funding for the restoration of the 19th-century Zion Synagogue. was raised by the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad (USD 26,000) and the London-based Hanadiv Charitable Foundation.

Photo gallery

See also

  • Plovdiv
  • Sofia Synagogue
  • History of the Jews in Bulgaria
  • List of synagogues in Bulgaria


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