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The Sephardi Community of Antwerp, which consists for the most part of Jews of Portuguese or Turkish origin, has had its own synagogue in the city since 1896.  Given the differences between its traditions and rites and those of the Ashkenazi community and its considerable strength (several hundred members), it applied for official recognition in 1904.  After a first refusal, it re-applied and official recognition was granted by a Royal Decree published on February 7, 1910.

In 1911 the Galimidi, Montias, Mizrahi, Salti, and Behaim families donated a plot of land in Hovenierstraat, near Antwerp’s Central Station, so that a new synagogue could be built.  This synagogue was designed by the young Jewish architect Joseph De Langue, winner of the architectural competition, who gave it contemporary lines while respecting a distinctive Neo-Romanesque style.  The synagogue has a sober façade and simple portico.  Inside there is just one nave, an apse, and a porch under the balcony that is reserved for women.  The side walls are decorated with small paired columns.  The light, which enters through windows in the roof, contributes to the calm, serene atmosphere that strikes all who enter.  The synagogue was inaugurated on May 8, 1913, and the Sephardic community could finally leave the Ottoman Center that had previously housed its gatherings.

The synagogue was ransacked and damaged during World War II.  However, the scrolls of the Torah were kept safe thanks to the intervention of a Turkish member of the congregation (it should be remembered that Turkey at the time was Germany’s ally).  However, the synagogue was restored immediately after the war, in 1946, and led a peaceful existence until 1981.  That was the year that a terrorist attack was perpetrated in Antwerp’s diamond district, in Hovenierstraat to be precise, killing three people and injuring many others.  The synagogue was damaged once again.  However, it was restored rather quickly thanks to the Jewish community’s mobilization.  The artist Edouard Leibovitz renovated the windows, which had been shattered by the attack.  The synagogue also recently refurbished thanks to the Taché family’s generosity.  In recognition of this gift, the synagogue now goes by the name of Beth Moshe (Moshe’s House), in a reference to an important member of the Taché family.

The Sephardi Community of Antwerp can once again count on a very dynamic membership.  In addition to holding services on shabbat (Friday evening and Saturday) and the Jewish holy days, the Community holds daily religious services and regularly dispenses courses.  The rites are still Sephardic, but have lost some of their Portuguese accent.