Current Events 71: Rosh HaShanah in Varna

August 04, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

           Varna's population had increased steadily in the post-Communist era, and exceeded 330,000 by the time that we arrived.  Under the Ottomans, Varna had a small Sephardic Jewish community.  After Bulgarian independence, its numbers had increased enough to support a synagogue in the Neo-Moorish style.  There were Ashkenazi Jews as well, some from Germany, but later mostly from Russia.  It was the Ashkenazi synagogue from the early Twentieth Century that still functioned as Varna's only Jewish house of worship.  Radi offered to walk with Mimi, HL and me to that synagogue while the rest of our party loitered around the Thermae.  

          Radi led us through narrow residential streets to a hybrid edifice nearby.  It had a smooth, grey faҫade, ornamented with a Star of David, in front of a glass and steel addition at least as large as the original structure.    The older part looked as if it had been refaced with unpainted concrete.  We walked up to the entrance and heard singing.  It was the second day of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, and the afternoon prayer service was in progress.  We withdrew, and stood near a tall gate of iron bars at the side of the synagogue.  Security was still, or again, an issue for Varna's remaining thousand or so Jews.

          We lingered there long enough to attract the attention of an adolescent girl clad in a lacy holiday outfit.  She was holding a girl toddler, perhaps her sister, in her arms.  The older girl was slender and barely able to support the weight of her burden.  I could imagine the toddler fussing during the service, and her older relative being dispatched to amuse her outside the sanctuary.  As we turned to go, we wished the teenager a Happy New Year, in Hebrew, but she may not have heard.  She stared after us, unsmiling.

 


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