Lal Deval (Red Synagogue)

It is tough for one travelling towards or away from M G Road to miss the brick-red spire stabbing the sky,rising through trees that mark the skyline.

Written by Rushil Dutta | Published:August 12, 2013 2:39 am

Established in: 1867

Located at: Moledina Road

It is tough for one travelling towards or away from M G Road to miss the brick-red spire stabbing the sky,rising through trees that mark the skyline. Once on Ambedkar Road,a little ahead of Moledina Road,one is faced with the spire’s base: a structure unmatched in all of Asia. Lal Deval (Red Synagogue),or the Ohel David Synagogue is Camp’s unrivaled monument.

The synagogue was gifted to the city’s Jewish community by David Sassoon,of Sassoon Hospital fame,in 1867 and took four years to build. Today,146 years later,the synagogue stands with the same grandeur as it must have then. The structure’s colour comes from the red bricks it has been made from,and is surrounded by a lush green lawn,providing a fitting contrast to the building,thus highlighting it. The synagogue compound is said to have a “Mikvah”,which facilitates ritualistic immersions,but is no longer in use. The premises of the Synagogue also hosts David Sassoon’s mausoleum in the same area where he once lived.

In the past,the synagogue saw footfall from members of the Jewish community of Mumbai (then Bombay) who would visit Pune (then Poona) as a summer retreat. Until a few years ago,one could access the lawns surrounding the synagogue,which saw tourists regularly. But since the German Bakery blasts in 2010,Lal Deval has been put on high-alert,with gun-bearing police officers stationed permanently in bunkers outside its gate. Today,the entire compound is closed to the non-Jewish. One cannot even lurk around its gates without being questioned. The non-Jewish tourist can only appreciate the synagogue’s beauty from a distance and shall forever remain oblivious to the beauties the synagogue’s interiors have to offer.

Shabbath prayers are conducted on Saturdays,which is presided over by a hazzan from Mumbai. The synagogue also admits Jews from other nations,on producing papers stating their nationality and belief.

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