Love of the Land

For the week ending 25 January 2003 / 22 Shevat 5763

Nissan Beck and the Emperor The Dome that Bowed

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

One of them most outstanding synagogues in the Old City of Jerusalem which was destroyed by the Jordanians in the war of Independence was the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue. It was popularly known as the Nissan Beck Shul because of its founder, whose father, Yisrael Beck, established the first Hebrew printing press in Jerusalem.

The most outstanding feature of this synagogue was the beautiful dome atop it. There is a famous story connected with this dome that goes back to the visit in 1870 of Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austro-Hungary, to Jerusalem. This ruler, respected for his benevolent policy towards his Jewish subjects, was given a royal welcome by those subjects who now lived in Jerusalem. They showed him the yet unfinished Nissan Beck Shul along other the buildings they had constructed. Familiar with the domes which topped the synagogues back in his own country, he asked his escorts where the dome of this one was. "Your Highness," they cleverly explained, "even the synagogue wished to pay tribute to you by removing its hat." The Emperor took the hint and contributed a generous sum for completing the dome.

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