Rodfe Sedek Synagogue, Mexico City
Haim F. Ghiuzeli
The Rodfe Sedek synagogue in Mexico City was established in 1931. It has since served the community of Jewish immigrants from the city of Aleppo, in northern Syria, and their descendants. During the first years of the 20th century, the Jews from Aleppo used to worship in a private house transformed in a synagogue – Sinagoga Ketana (Bet Haknesset HaKatan) located in Calles de Jesús María in Mexico City. In 1938 the Jewish immigrants from Aleppo set up Sociedad de beneficencia Sedaká u Marpé, a separate Jewish community in Mexico City that since 1984 has been known as Comunidad Maguen David. The opening of the Orthodox Rodfe Sedek synagogue was possible thanks to the efforts of Rabbi Mordejay Attie, whose determination and dedication were of the greatest importance for raising the necessary funds. Known also as Knis de Cordoba, the Rodfe Sedek synagogue is situated at 238 Cordoba Street in the Roma quarter of Mexico City. At the time this neighborhood was home to the largest concentration of Jews from Aleppo in Mexico City. The first mikveh (ritual bath) in Mexico was established within the Rodfe Sedek synagogue. In 1982 a funeral house was built in the courtyard of the synagogue.
The famous Central Synagogue of Aleppo (burnt down in 1947) provided the main inspiration for the architecture of Rodfe Sedek Synagogue. The main entrance is through a large wooden door decorated with a Star of David leading to a small lobby. The main hall is situated at the first hall and has an almost square shaped floor plan. The design is dominated by the repeated pattern of diagonal lines mounting rhythmically towards a pointed arch. The motif can be found on many parts of the building – ceilings, windows, and doors – inside and outside alike as well as on various pieces of furniture.
To reach the Holy Ark – Heichal – one has to climb three steps, the Torah scrolls are being kept inside a large wooden room that lies behind the doors of the Holy Ark separated from the main prayer hall by a marble balustrade. The wooden tevah stands at the center of the prayer hall. There are two women’s galleries; the one located a the west end of the prayer hall has eight rows of benches and is lighted up by a large stained glass window featuring a Star of David, the other gallery is located in the north wing of the building.
The decoration of the synagogue makes use of Hebrew inscriptions of biblical verses, among them one above the Holy Ark, of traditional Jewish symbols like the menorah and the Magen David (Star of David), and of geometrical motifs and depictions of elements of natural flora. Color stained glass windows filter the sunlight helping to create an atmosphere of reverence and spirituality.
The Rodfe Sedek synagogue has served the members of the Aleppo Jews in Mexico for generations not only as a prayer house, but also as an important gathering place and the premises of many religious, social, cultural, educational and communal activities. However, the synagogue’s centrality as a prayer and meetinghouse for the members of the Maguen David Community of the Aleppo Jews has diminished since the 1960’s following the moving of a majority of worshipers from the Roma quarter to other districts in Mexico City, although its spiritual importance has remained unchanged. Today only a small number of people pray in the Rodfe Sedek synagogue while the study of the Torah continues uninterrupted in the local Beth Midrash.
Addresses and links:
Cordoba No. 238
C.P. 11550 Mexico City, DF
Phone: 011 525 574 8854
Comunidad Maguen David, A.C.
Lafontaine No. 229
C. P. 11550 Mexico City, D.F.
Phone: 011 525 203 9964
Fax: 011 525 255 1739