Love of the Land

For the week ending 28 August 2004 / 11 Elul 5764

Old-Fashioned Diplomacy

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

"Why is there no dome atop your synagogue as there are on the synagogues in my empire?"

This was the question put to his Jewish escorts back in 1870 by Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austro-Hungary during a visit to Jerusalem. This European ruler, respected for his benevolent policy towards his Jewish subjects, was being shown the yet unfinished Nissan Beck Shul by some of those subjects now living in Jerusalem.

"Your highness," one of them diplomatically explained, "even the synagogue wishes to pay tribute to you by removing its hat!"

The compliment and hint succeeded in eliciting from the Emperor a generous sum for completing the dome which served as a Jerusalem landmark until it was destroyed by the Jordanians in the War of Independence.

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