(JR) — Isaac Arazi, who as former president of Lebanon’s tiny Jewish community led the rehabilitation of Beirut’s abandoned Magen Avraham synagogue, died Tuesday. He was 80.
A lawyer for the community, which numbers less than 30, confirmed his death to Agence France-Presse.
Arazi headed the Lebanese Jewish Community Council, which represented the remnant of the estimated 22,000 Jews who lived in Lebanon before the civil war that lasted from 1975-1989. Terrorists targeted Jews for kidnapping and murder during the war; 11 were killed or went missing.
Arazi led efforts to restore Magen Avraham, situated in the city’s old Jewish quarter, beginning in 2008. The plans were delayed by the global financial crisis, but renovations were completed by 2010. The synagogue was damaged by a catastrophic port blast in the Lebanese capital in 2019, and reopened a year later following extensive renovations underwritten by donors abroad.
Arazi had grand plans for the synagogue, but was realistic about restoring Jewish life in a country riven by strife and antagonistic toward Israel and Jews. “You need to be at least 10 people to celebrate Shabbat. But most of them live abroad. And those that live here are too afraid to vote,” he told a reporter in 2011.
The synagogue’s last rabbi fled the country in 1977, and the last rabbi in Lebanon left in 1995.