Mazal tov! Cyprus gets first synagogue

Nicosia, Cyprus - Cyprus' Jewish community inaugurated the island's first synagogue in the seaside city of Larnaca yesterday.

"This is a historic event for Cyprus," Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger told a 100-strong crowd at the ceremony. "We are very happy Cyprus is open to all religions."

The ceremony included the introduction of a Torah scroll and the laying of the cornerstone for a mikveh ritual bath.

"Cyprus is a state where all religions are tolerated and we welcome the Jewish synagogue," Cypriot Education Minister Pefkios Georgiades said. Until now, Cyprus was the only European Union member to lack a synagogue.

Rabbi Arie Ze'ev Raskin, 29, was named religious leader of the Cyprus Jewish community.

Some 300 Jewish families - about 1,500 people in all - currently live on Cyprus, half of which immigrated from Israel.

The first recorded arrival of Jews on the island was in 1571. Following World War II, Britain interned approximately 52,000 Jews in Cyprus whom it had prevented from entering Israel; 2,000 babies were born on the island as they waited to enter Israel.