Liberal Congregation of Gelderland to Occupy Synagogue Empty of Jews Since 1943
ISJM, August 8, 2008
In the Dutch province of Gelderland a Liberal Jewish community is restoring an old synagogue as its new home. The Jewish Dutch population in the area was decimated during World War II with almost 90% of this group being deported to Nazi camps. A small number of survivors reestablished communities in a few towns in the province. In 1965 survivors and newcomers established a Liberal congregation - eventually named the Liberal Jewish Congregation of Gelderland (LJG) that now comprises 70 families and continues to grow. Since 2005, LJG has been negotiating to reuse the former synagogue of Dieren, built in 1884, as its home. The building has not seen Jewish use since 1943, and was sold in 1952, and most recently has been a church.
A group of Jewish community members started a foundation (Friends of the Dieren Synagogue) with membership drawn from the LJG, descendants of Jewish families from Dieren, and representatives of the town with the purpose of restoring the synagogue as a center for Progressive Jewish religious life and for general cultural activities. With support of the municipal, provincial and national governments and with private funding, the foundation acquired the synagogue building in 2007. A national Dutch fund and the province of Gelderland have each committed significant funding for the needed renovations. Additional funding of about $400,000 needs to be raised to complete the first restoration phase.
The Dieren synagogue is one of the few surviving synagogues in Gelderland – a province in east-central Holland. The Winterswijk synagogue was officially rededicated in 1951 and restored between 1982 and 1984. There is a small synagogue in Aalten that was rededicated in 1986. The former Dieserstraat synagogue in Zutphen was restored in 1985. The Arnhem Synagogue was restored for the community there and rededicated in 2003. A former synagogue is now a private house in Bredenvoort.
Click here for history of the Jews of Dieren
Dieren was also the site of a slave labor camp in 1942, until the Jevwish prisoners were sent to Westerbork, and then to Nazi death camps in 1943. A monument was erected to the memory of the victim in 1998.
The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) in New York will accept contributions for the project and to transmit them to the Netherlands. If you wish to donate, your check should be made out to WUPJ and sent to their office at 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6778. On the memo line of your check, include the words "Friends of the Dieren Synagogue." Contributions by US taxpayers are tax-deductible. The WUPJ is a charitable non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code.
From Europe, contributions can be made directly to the Foundation, whose website also has photos, a pre-war architectural plan of the synagogue, and other materials.
ISJM thanks Amy Ollendorf of Minneapolis, MN for informing us about this project.