Visit the Historical Great Synagogue of Oran

Judaism is not a religion that is commonly associated with Algeria, yet there are several synagogues located in the country. One of these is the Great Synagogue of Oran which makes for a lovely tourist attraction if you are planning to visit the area soon.

Historically speaking, there were always quite a large number of Jewish people living and trading in the various cities of Algeria. It is interesting to note that Arab chroniclers suggest that several Berber tribes may have converted to Judaism before the arrival of Islam in the country. Queen Kahina was the foremost example of this transition. Jews have been present in Algeria since late Roman times at least and so have always played a noteworthy role in the history and economy of the country. Their numbers grew exponentially when Jews fled the Spanish Inquisition in Spain in 1492, with the majority of the Jews arriving in the country flocking to either Algiers or Oran to join the already large and well-established communities present at these locations. When one considers the vast Jewish population that must have been present in Oran by the 1880s, it is easy to understand why the Great Synagogue of Oran is such a grand old building. Construction of the synagogue was started in 1880 by Simon Kanoui but it was only inaurgurated in 1918. Located on Boulevard Maata Mohamed El Habib (formerly Boulevard Joffre), this grand religious building is also known as Temple Israelite. In its day it was regarded as being one of the largest and best synagogues in North Africa. It has a Moorish architectural style that is complimentary to its surroundings and served many years as an epicenter for the Jewish faith in Oran.

Unfortunately things changed drastically, both for the Jews living in Oran and for the temple, shortly after the country’s gaining independence in 1962. Many of the Jews left for France simply because they were able but a few remained behind. In 1975 the Great Synagogue of Oran was confiscated by the government and converted into a mosque. This was just one in a series of events that led to more and more Jews fleeing the country. The last straw came in 1994 when the few remaining Jews became a specific target of militant groups operating in the area. Today only buildings such as the Great Synagogue of Oran remain as witness of the once flourishing Jewish populations that once lived there.