Rav Moshe Feinstein’s Shul in Luban Being Torn Down


rav-moshe-feinsteinThe roof has been removed and the windows stripped of their frames and glass. Piece by piece, workers are tearing down the former shul where Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l served as rov before fleeing the Soviet Union for New York in 1936. Rav Moshe was the last rov to serve at the shul in the once predominantly Jewish town of Luban, Belarus.

After his departure, the shul in Luban was taken over by Young Pioneers for the training of future communists. Within five years, most of the Jews were gone too, as almost the entire Jewish population was rounded up and shot by the invading Nazis in World War II.

The shul‘s role in town history was only publicly recognized again in 1996, when a memorial plaque in English, Belarusian and Hebrew was put up on the building, which by then housed a medical clinic.

The local government now plans to build a supermarket at the site, which is on the main square of the town, located 85 miles south of Minsk, the capital.

The regional government says it has no obligation to save the shul, which is not included on a list of buildings considered to have historical or cultural value.

“The exterior of the building is not in line with that of a Jewish temple, so there is no point in restoring it,” said the director of the town’s museum, Natalya Sinyak.

Belarusian Jewish organizations have protested the destruction of the shul, but the objections have been ignored.

“Instead of expressing pride in the prominent figures who were born on this land, their memory is being destroyed,” said Yakov Basin, vice president of a national Jewish organization.

As the demolition began, the memorial plaque was moved to a nearby building, where it was attached with two crooked, rusty nails.

“The synagogue was the only reminder left of the Jews,” said Arkady Gelfand, a 70-year-old teacher who is one of five Jews remaining in the town of 11,000.

No mention is made of Jews even at the Soviet-era memorial where 785 Jews were shot in November 1941 when the Luban Ghetto was liquidated. The victims are referred to only as peaceful citizens.

Gelfand, whose parents and grandparents worshipped under Feinstein, remembers how he wept with happiness when the plaque was put up on the former shul in a ceremony attended by representatives of the Israeli Embassy.

“Even so we remain a persecuted people,” said Gelfand.

The Belarusian government denies the existence of anti-Semitism, even as it allows the destruction of Jewish cemeteries and refuses to preserve monuments to the country’s rich Jewish history.

Only about 25,000 Jews now live in Belarus, a country of 10 million people squeezed between Poland and Russia. Before the war, more than half of the urban population was Jewish, and Yiddish was a state language.

As many as three presidents and four prime ministers of Israel – including Menachem Begin, Yitzcak Shamir, Golda Meir and Ariel Sharon – were born in Belarus.

The two-story wooden shul in Luban was built at the end of the 19th century and became the center of spiritual life for the town’s Jews, who at the time comprised 95 percent of the population. Even in 1939, the population was still 60 percent Jewish.

Rav Moshe began his tenure as rov in 1920 when he was only 25. In 1936, as dictator Josef Stalin tightened his grip, Rav Moshe was told to leave the country or face arrest. His brother, who stayed, was arrested and died the following year in a Siberian labor camp.

{AP, Elisha Ferber-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Many many Shuls were destroyed in golus. I sure hope that no one will start a campaign to rebuild it so the RUSSIAM should take it again. Let’s do teshuva and the BIG SHUL our Bais Hamikdosh should get rebuilt! Bimheira Beyameinu Omein.