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The Jewish Community of Charleroi took shape after the 1918 armistice.  It resulted mainly from the influx of Jews who fled the inhospitable lands of Eastern Europe and were hired as miners in the “Black Country’s” coal mines.  After official recognition by the Royal Decree of May 14, 1928, the community surged to stand at 600 families on the eve of World War II.  Little by little the Jews left the coal mines and turned to other trades.  Charleroi’s Jewish community grew considerably throughout this prewar period.  This was reflected by the development of synagogues, charitable organizations, and sociocultural centers.  However, the tragedy of the Holocaust struck the community a fatal blow from which it recovered with great difficulty, and at Belgium’s liberation the Jewish community of Charleroi was a shadow of its former self.  Hundreds of its members had been deported and exterminated.  Despite the adversity, the community’s life was reorganized around a smaller number of members.  It would stand out for its organization of major festivities in the former center in Rue de Bienfaisance and above all the building of a synagogue that was launched in 1961.  This synagogue, located in Rue Pige-au-Croly, was designed by the architect Badet and consecrated on February 24, 1963.  The building became both a house of worship and a community center.

The community’s Board of Directors is making great efforts to maintain an active Jewish community in Charleroi, but the small number of members is obviously a major handicap.  This does not prevent religious services from being held every shabbat (both Friday evenings and Saturday mornings).

Charleroi’s Jewish community has a section of its own in Marcinelle cemetery where one can also pay one’s respects before two poignant memorials, one to the Jewish martyrs of Charleroi and the other to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.  Commemorations attended by the city’s leading figures are held in front of these memorials each year on Yom HaShoah (”the Day of the Shoah”), the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.  Charleroi’s synagogue also houses the Museum of the Memory of the Righteous Among the Nations, which was opened a few years ago and is visited by numerous school groups.  According to the museum’s initiator, Professor Maurice Konopnicki, it is unique in the world, aside from the memorial that pays tribute to the Righteous on Yad Vashem hill in Jerusalem:  “Many descendents of survivors have contacted us to reconstruct their relatives’ histories.  The museum is also essential to counter the ignorance of too many young people.  Today, sixty years after the end of the war, there are still too many gaps in the way the memory [of the Holocaust] is kept alive.”  The museum’s Internet site can be consulted at the following address:

On another front, Charleroi’s Jewish Center organizes a great many activities:  a meal every Tuesday evening followed by a lecture and debate among its members; occasional feasts, such as the Passover Seder (Pesach or Passover is Jewish Easter); talks and exhibitions, notably on European Jewish Culture Day; and the hosting of school groups, non-Jewish cultural groups, and young Israelis visiting Charleroi in the context of athletic activities.

The Jewish Community of Charleroi also takes part in the activities of GRAIR, a group for exchange, dialog, and interfaith action.