On the eve of Chanukah 5773 (December 2012), Michael Rogatchi presented to the Turku Synagogue, the home of his congregation in Finland, with three masterly portraits of the congregation’s eldest members.

Michael Rogatchi’s portraits (from left to right) of Mikael Meishu Rubinstein, Reuben Goldberg, and Mikael Mejse Dryzun on the wall of Turku Synagogue in Finland. © The Rogatchi Foundation.

The event was a part of the ongoing commemoration of the Turku Synagogue, the second largest in Finland. During the presentation ceremony, Tomer Huhtamaki, the chairman of the Turku Jewish community said: “In the way of thinking of our community’s future in the year of the 100th anniversary of our synagogue, it will be right to express our gratitude to the elder generation of our community for all that work that they have been doing all those years to keep the life of the synagogue vivid and the spirit of the congregation high. What we all are experiencing now is the live implementation of Le dor va dor, the essential Jewish way of passing knowledge and tradition from generation to generation without interruption and loss.

That’s why the brilliant idea of Michael Rogatchi, world-famous artist who is a key-member of our synagogue minyan, was received by all of us here so happily: “Let’s get into our synagogue the portraits of our minyan’s three elders, to remind the coming generations that in this hundred-year-old synagogue of Turku, the orthodox Jewish traditions were well preserved and dutifully maintained; let’s remind the coming generations also who were the people who have made it all happen. On Chanukah eve, there is no better time to inaugurate these masterly done portraits, and to salute our eldest members, Reuben Goldberd, Mejse Dryzun and Meishu Rubinstein. On behalf of the entire congregation, I am thanking and saluting also the author of the great idea, and the great artist Michael Rogatchi – Le Chaiym!”

The eldest members of the Turku synagogue are well known people with distinguished merits during their lives and services to the second largest Jewish congregation in Finland. 93-year-old Reuben Goldberg is one of the bravest veterans of the Finnish Winter War and also of the Israel War of the Independence; 85-year-old Mejse Dryzynis from a dynasty of Rabies and distinguished Torah scholars; 82-year-old Meishu Rubinstein was the gabai (custodian) of the Turku synagogue over several decades.

In his speech, Michael Rogatchi said: “I have had the idea to paint the portraits of these three very modest but truly great men for a few years now. When I did enter this synagogue many years ago, Reuben Goldberg showed me the place to pray, next to him; the person who knows the Torah by heart. I’m still standing next to Reuben every Shabbat, and it is one of the cornerstones of my life. All those years, Mejse Dryzun whose father was the last Rabbi of the Turku congregation, has and still is enlightening me, and the other members, on any issue regarding the rite and the tradition. All those years, Meishu Rubinstein, who had kept our synagogue alive and functioning over the decades, including very uneasy periods, was and is ‘the guardian angel’ of our spirit. I owe to all these three strong and devoted Jewish men, my dear friends, a good part of my personal attachment to the congregation and synagogue of Turku, and they are an indispensable part of my life. L’chaim!”

Speaking to the audience on behalf of the heroes on this warm and meaningful occasion, Mikael Mejse Dryzun has said: “We represent here the elder generation of our community. My father and grand-father both were Rabies in Turku. My friends and their families count generations back from this day when our synagogue in which my father was serving, celebrates its 100th anniversary. It is very important for us, it is vital, in fact, to see that our tradition lives, and that it is in the good and able hands of the generation which has come to take the thread from our hands, and is doing it both confidently and devotedly. As for this wonderful and complete surprise of the portraits, excellent portrayals, I should emphasise, it is a very great honour for all three of us to have our portraits to be on the wall of the synagogue where life has been going on for us and our families over several generations. We all are immensely grateful to the artist, Michael Rogatchi, for his wonderful idea and great work, to the community’s chairman for supporting and implementing this idea, and to all of you who have come today to be here with us. Le Chaim!”

The portraits can be seen at the ceremonial hall of the Turku synagogue.