April 19, 2012
Basel opens first new Orthodox synagogue in 83 years
Basel, a city with a Jewish population of some 2,000, saw the opening of its fifth synagogue.
Monday’s opening was the first dedication of an Orthodox synagogue in the city of Zionist fame since 1929.
Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski, a Chabad emissary who settled in Basel 10 years ago, will run the synagogue, which is near the Chabad House. It is part of the Feldinger Chabad Jewish Center, named for a Jewish family that hosted Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.
The dedication was “a very exciting day for the community,” Wishedski said.
Joel Weill, the Basel Jewish community’s head of administration, worried that the new synagogue could be divisive.
“We value Rabbi Wishedski’s work on education, but we’re not so happy about the synagogue,” Weill said. “We fear it will further divide the community. We have 1,000 people who go to synagogues. This isn’t New York.”
Weill added that the community was “diminishing” in size.
Basel hosted the inaugural congress of the World Zionist Organization in 1897, chaired by Theodor Herzl. “At Basel I founded the Jewish State,” Herzl wrote in his diary.