Florence Shul

“Last month, my friends and I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. We visited Chabad often as well as the one kosher restaurant in the city, called Ruth’s. Only a very small Jewish community remains in Florence- I believe numbering around 300, who mostly reside in the area neighboring the Sinagoga di Firenze.
The shul is absolutely breathtaking.  I just kept thinking- imagine what this synagogue looked like on Rosh Hashanah, when there once was a significant Jewish community in Florence. We saw the preserved artifacts that were collected after the German soldiers attempted to blow up the shul in World War II. I read their Megilat Esther and Torah scrolls, of course identical to ours, saw the elaborate Torah ornaments, and beautifully cased siddurim. ‘Matir Asirim’ was the name of the Jewish brotherhood that aided Jewish prisoners during the war. It’s also the name of the beracha in Birchot Hashachar when we thank Gd for “untying the bounds.” How fitting. I appreciated simply reading the posted candle lighting times and parashat hashavuah on the walls, and the aseret hadivrot everywhere I turned. I felt so intimately connected to the shul, it was simply incredible. We are all connected to these Jews that once prayed here and called this place their family shul. I think it’s amazing that in every era and in every country around the world, all of us pray the same tefilah and we all read from the same Torah. It’s unbelievable.
The German soldiers planted mines in the shul during Nazi occupation, which were meant to blow up the entire synagogue. By miracle, only one small section was destroyed, which of course is tragic, but the beautiful structure remains intact. They failed, and because they failed, I was able to see and appreciate this beautiful synagogue that is over 130 years old. Gd bless the Italian soldiers who guard this synagogue day in and day out. It’s sad that it needs such high security, and that the shul has become a museum with a meager minyan that only meets on Shabbat.” – Linda Dayan

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