The Geulat Yisrael Synagogue on Sheinkin St. in the heart of Tel Aviv will reopen after a year-long renovation funded by the World Congress of Georgian Jews.
From now on, the synagogue will be called Geualt Yisrael Chabad Tel Aviv- Bet Moshe
after Moshe Mirilashvili, of blessed memory, the first president of the Congress.
The festive opening will take place on Tuesday, 19 Sivan, 5770 (June 1, 2010) beginning at 5 p.m.
The Bet Moshe Synagogue on Merkaz Ba'alei HaMelacha Street in the heart of Tel Aviv will reopen on June 1, 2010 after a year-long substantial renovation and construction process. Once open, it will be one of the most magnificent and beautiful synagogues in Israel.
Eighteen Torah scrolls will be dedicated during the opening event, donated by the World Congress of Georgian Jews, one scroll donated by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress led by Mr. Alexander Machkevich, one scroll dedicated by residents of Tel Aviv, and two more renewed scrolls will be dedicated as well.
The World Congress of Georgian Jews plans to take under its wing over this coming year the renovation of another 45 Georgian Jewish synagogues around Israel.
The synagogue, called Geulat Yisrael since its establishment in 1937, will now be called Geulat Yisrael Chabad - Bet Moshe after Moshe Mirilashvili, of blessed memory, the first president of the Congress. The synagogue will continue to function under the auspices of Chabad and there will be regular prayer services, events, and more for the area's community.
Thousands of guests are expected to participate in the event which will take place in the synagogue and in Sheinkin Park. Among them are Chairman of the Knesset - Mr. Rubi Rivlin, members of government and Knesset, leaders of international Jewish organizations, Israeli Chief Rabbis – Rabbi Yona Metzger and Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, emissary of the Lubavitcher Rabbi and Chabad Chief Rabbi in Tel Aviv - Rabbi Yosef Gerlitzky, rabbis of the Georgian community, Tel Aviv residents, guests from abroad including Dr. Alexander Machkevich – President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, and Lev Leviev – President of the World Congress of Bukharian Jews.
Approximately 500 public opinion leaders of the Georgian community decided, as part of the event, to bestow on Israeli President Shimon Peres a special medal named Legenda (as in "legend"). The medal is made of pure gold and is decorated with diamonds. The first Legenda was bestowed on Mr. Ariel Sharon during his tenure as prime minister.
In addition to the ceremonies, a festive meal will be served replete with the best that Georgian cuisine has to offer.
The synagogue's renovation was made possible after Mr. Gabriel Mirilashvili, the son of the World Congress of Georgian Jews' founder, came to the Geulat Yisrael synagogue to pray at the beginning of the year of mourning for his father. He met Rabbi Gerlitzky there who told him that his father had been a generous donor to the synagogue and the community's needy. The Rabbi suggested to Gabriel to donate the renovation of the Holy Ark, and the son decided to donate the restoration of the entire synagogue. The synagogue had been on the verge of physical collapse after not having been dealt with since its establishment. Among the many improvements to the synagogue are a large and distinctive Holy Ark, 25 chandeliers – the largest of them is 2 by 3 meters large and is valued at approximately $250,000 – and more.
The name change from Geulat Yisrael to Geulat Yisrael Chabad - Bet Moshe was made possible after Chabad-Lubavitch International in New York unanimously decided to bestow upon the synagogue the name of Moshe Mirilashvili. The name was announced and accepted favorably at the Chabad international conference in the presence of 4,000 participants. The name change is being done in conjunction with the Tel Aviv municipality and as one the events marking the city's centennial.
Gabriel Mirilashvili relates that "a special dove has been accompanying us since our first professional visit to the synagogue. She sat on top of the Holy Ark as though listening to our conversation, as an emissary of my father's. The same thing with the dove repeated itself when we were in other synagogues for the same purpose, and when preparing for the big and festive event of dedicating Torah scrolls at the Western Wall in the presence of thousands from different communities in Israel and abroad. The presence of the dove influenced me deeply: I increased the scope of my anonymous donations and also increased my belief in the Creator of the Universe".
The World Congress of Georgian Jews was founded in 2003 in order to unify, for the first time, most of the organizations representing Georgian expatriates around the world, to integrate the community as an integral part of world Jewry, and to present the community's cultural, spiritual, and social heritage for the entire Jewish world to see.
The Congress aspired to advance members of the Georgian community in Israel and abroad so they could be integrated into all spheres of live in society while maintaining their culture and traditions and feeling proud of their Georgian roots. To that end, the Congress is active in many areas within and outside of the community, in Israel and in additional branches in Georgia, Russia, the United States, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Australia and Hungary; and in a variety of fields including science, sports, welfare, education, religion, culture, and strengthening of the I.D.F.
Moshe Mirilashvili, of blessed memory, was the first president of the World Congress of Georgian Jews. Moshe (Mishiko) Mirilashvili was born in 1942 in Georgia. In 1957, he completed his studies with honors, won a gold medal, and continued his academic studies in the Georgian Technical University of Tbilisi. Mirilashvili began his professional life as a regular employee in a materials factory where his father, Gabriel Mirilashvili was the general manager. He advanced to the position of chief engineer in which he worked until 1993. During this time, the factory attained all its goals and won governmental awards.
Three of Mirilashvili's children hold academic degrees in medicine, and his grandchildren are continuing in the family tradition. In 1994, he moved to St. Petersburg as deputy director of maintenance, vice president of the company Sovetnik, as well as vice president of the company Kazasus, and until his passing was the chief advisor to his sons. Mirilashvili is the scion of a religious family that meticulously helped the needy anonymously. He is one of the founders of the World Congress of Georgian Jews, and on January 28, 2003, was elected its first president. The scope of his donations was unknown even to his family since he had always been careful to support the needy anonymously.
Construction on the Geulat Yisrael Synagogue began in 1933 on 16 Merkaz Ba'alei HaMelacha Street. This is one of the older, beautiful, and impressive synagogues in the city of Tel Aviv.
During 1912 to 1913, several owners of workshops and small family-run factories, led by Matityahu Winokur and Menahem Sheinkin (after whom the main street in the neighborhood is named) initiated a settlement north of Achuzat Bayit in a place called the Machanayim Neighborhood. The names of other streets in the neighborhood are related to workmen such as Rabbi Yohanan the Shoemaker, Labor Street, etc. The neighborhood became part of Tel Aviv in 1923.
During its first decade, the synagogue was housed in a shack until its members managed to raise funds for its permanent building, and volunteered their professional abilities to build it. The permanent structure was dedicated on the 18th of the Hebrew month of Elul in 1937.
As the character of the community in the area of Sheinkin Street changed, the number of worshippers in the synagogue dropped dramatically. Rabbi Yosef Gerlitzky, head emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Tel Aviv, has been serving as the rabbi of the synagogue since the beginning sine the mid 1980s. When Chabad came onto the scene, the movement's members worked to involve the local community in the synagogue's activities. Now, the synagogue is home to many special activities emphasizing Jewish holidays for children from kindergartens, schools, and the community center.
The synagogue contains approximately 620 seats, including the women's section.
Educational frameworks for adults have been present since the synagogue's first days, and today as well, the synagogue holds Torah lessons for adults (under the auspices of the Kollel Tiferet Zkenim). Bar mitzvah boys and grooms, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the founders all go up to the Torah at the synagogue.
Many of neighborhood residents who might be described as traditional attend the synagogue. The fact that the synagogue is located on Sheinkin Street affects its activities and more than a few of the local newly-observant are among the "Sheinkinites" who were enthused by coming in contact with the synagogue.
The first contact between the worshippers and the "Sheinkinites" began during a loud artistic performance in Sheinkin Park that disturbed Friday night services. The synagogue's gabbai and Rabbi Gerlitzky approached those praying with a request to invite the revelers, those desecrating Shabbat, to come into the synagogue. "We went out, blessed the revelers with the blessing of Shabbat Shalom and then quietly and politely remarked that since those in the adjacent synagogue were having difficulty praying due to the noise, perhaps they would like to join them in prayer". Approximately 20 of the revelers left the entertainment to join the prayer service. Among those who changed their way of life as a result are the renowned actor Michael Vaigel, television personality "Sassi" known as Zvulun Mushiashvili, and many others.
Former legal advisor to the government, Mr. Elyakim Rubinstein, came here for years along with his now-deceased father. Many famous cantors led the congregation in the synagogue, among them Moshe Kosovitzky, brothers Naftali and Chaim Eliezer Hershtig, Chaim Adler, David Rokach, and others. Former mayor Shlomo (Chich) Lahat would come to the synagogue for special events, and the present mayor, Ron Huldai, comes here occasionally as well.
In 1990, the small hall in the synagogue was renovated by Holocaust survivors Rabbi Mordechai David and Chana Boimelgreen of the United States and is called in their name.
In 2009, renovation of the synagogue began. The small hall was renovated and the large hall was reconstructed. The façade of the building was renewed as well.
The most striking architectural features are the twelve windows on which the names of the tribes of Israel are etched. The design was done by Zehava Binyamin who worked in conjunction with the architect Zorev Eivezshvili. The chief advisor and the driving force behind the renovation project is Yosef (Yoske) Memistevlov.
The memorial plaques in the synagogue commemorate the names of hundreds of synagogue members who passed away. Among them are the synagogue's founding members: Shmuel Horwitz, Moshe Levinson, Natan Rosner, and Menachem Shoshani, as well as names of generous donors who donated Torah scrolls to the synagogue: The Nagid Rabbi Yosef Gutnik, the Blush Family, the Said Family, the Baseflov Family, and others.
(The information about the synagogue is based on the article written by journalist Chaim Pikaresh who participated in the Torah lessons in the synagogue.)