moscowNew York

  • Issue: September 1970
  • Designer: E. Weishoff
  • Plate no.: 293 - 297
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

Jewish communities throughout the world have always used synagogues as centers dedicated to the worship of God, for cultural life, and for community activities. The synagogue, then, has a triple function:

Every synagogue contains functional furniture and equipment: a Holy Ark, a dais from which the Torah is read, benches for seating, sacred books for prayer and study.

For the glory of God, synagogues are beautified with artistic decorations, murals, painted ceilings, ornamented windows, and at times mosaic floors. These, and even the architecture, reflect the artistic trends of their respective eras and regions.


The ancient synagogue in Cracow was built in the 14th century and is thought to be the oldest synagogue in Poland. It was in this synagogue that the kings of Poland granted charters to their Jewish subjects. The rich collection of religious objects it houses makes this synagogue an important museum, recording the history of Polish Jewry.

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At the end of World War I, when the Jews of Tunis began to emerge from the ghetto, there was need for a new synagogue in the center of Tunis' European quarter.

On June 11, 1933, the cornerstone was laid on a plot donated by the Bey of Tunis and construction proceeded thanks to a fund established by the great French Jewish philanthropist Daniel Oseris. The synagogue, designed by the architect Victor Valensi, was dedicated on December 23, 1937.

When the Nazi occupation began in November, 1942, the Jews were forbidden to use the synagogue, but it was liberated by the Allied armies in May 1943.

On June 5, 1967, the day the Six-Day War started, an Arab mob set fire to the synagogue; it was later repaired by the authorities.

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The Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, for which foundations were laid in 1671, was dedicated in August 1675. It was constructed by "master builder" Elias Bouman. The dedication services were elaborate with a choir and orchestra participating; they went on for six consecutive days.

The synagogue is 125 feet long and 95 feet wide, accommodating more than 1,500 worshipers.

The Ark, which occupies the entire width of the nave, is made of Brazilian wood and crowned with the tablets of the Law. The Portuguese synagogue soon became a landmark and even today belongs to the city's historical sights.

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In the year 1891 Rabbi S. Minor applied to the Moscow police for permission to transfer prayer services from private homes to a special building, constructed according to plans approved by the provincial government. When the building was completed, orders were given to have its dome removed. Subsequently the permit was rescinded, and on January 23, 1892, an order was issued to close the Synagogue on the pretext that it was illegal. Most Jews inclined to bow to the order but Rabbi Minor and a community leader named Schneider submitted a request to be allowed to reopen the synagogue. As a result of their action, the two men were expelled and the Jewish community was ordered to sell the building by January 1893 or convert it into a public building. It was suggested that

the building could be used to house the publicly supported Jewish school (Talmud Torah) consisting of two classes.

Another attempt was made to open the synagogue on the occasion of the coronation celebrations (1896), but this request was denied and declared to be extremely presumptuous. When the building was finally remodeled for use as a school, the Russian administration "discovered" that although the school had been in existence since 1871 and had earned high praise, it did not possess a valid permit. The principal of the school was then expelled from Moscow, and an order issued to close the school "for lack of students." Once again the Jewish community was ordered to turn the synagogue over to a charitable institution, failing which the building would be sold at auction within two months. The community therefore investigated the possibilities of remodeling the synagogue for use as a hospital or other similar institution, but the provincial government concluded that no institution of that kind required a building.

The order to close the Great Synagogue was issued along with nine similar ones, leaving Moscow with five prayer houses with a combined seating capacity of 800. This was totally inadequate, as in 1871, the Jewish population of the city was 8,000, and by 1879 had reached 13,000. Thus many Muscovite Jews said their prayers in private, while others would leave the capital regularly for the important holidays.

On June 1, 1906, Moscow's new Great Synagogue was opened at last.

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New York

The Congregation "Shearith Israel" was founded in New York more than three centuries ago. Its present synagogue was erected at Central Park West and Seventieth Street, Manhattan, in 1897. In the cornerstone, which was laid in 1896, there were placed many historical data, Jewish ritual articles, and some earth from the Holy Land.

The building was designed by the architect Arnold Bruner and completed in Renaissance Greek style, a style the architect chose apparently under the influence of finds made in Galilee of remains of Greco-Roman period synagogues (Kefar Nahum and Khorazim).

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Festivals 5731 (1970)