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The Restoration of European Synagogues


The Foundation for Jewish Heritage, a Britain-based nonprofit organization, has been working with the Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to map the 17,000 synagogues that were active in Europe before World War II. Only 3,318 of the buildings still stand and of those, just 718 remain functioning as places of worship. The others are damaged or have been converted to other uses. The Foundation announced in February 2018 plans to restore those considered most important. Of the synagogues in disrepair, the Foundation has narrowed its focus to 19.

According to the Foundation: “The annihilation of the majority of Jewish communities in Europe during the Holocaust was accompanied by mass destruction of synagogues, and the remaining buildings were left mostly without care. Especially pitiful was the fate of former synagogues in eastern Europe under Communist rule: they were demolished, reconstructed for various purposes or simply abandoned.”

“The state of preservation was significantly better” in western Europe, but small Jewish communities were unable to maintain many of their synagogues.

The Foundation explained the importance of the project:

For the Jewish people with traditions built on memory, such places give meaning to the Jewish present and future, strengthening awareness and connection. They are also testimony to the remarkable Jewish contribution to world civilization; powerful visual tools for education on Judaism, Jewish history and culture promoting understanding, respect and dialogue.

Source: Jamie Dettmer, “Campaign Launched to Restore Noteworthy European Synagogues,” eJewish Philanthropy, (February 8, 2018).