Jewish Heritage Report Issue
No. 1 / March 1997
World Monuments Fund Update


In 1988, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) began to document and monitor the condition of Jewish heritage sites all over the world in order to establish a priority list of endangered monuments. The recently published Preservation Priorities: Endangered Historic Jewish Sites describes ten endangered synagogues of historic and artistic importance which face perils ranging from neglect to environmental damage to the ravages of war. These sites have been selected on the basis of careful evaluation of historical significance, intactness of historic elements, urgency of the need for intervention, and the presence of a responsible local community or authority to oversee conservation work and ongoing maintenance. Only the Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin, India and the Tempel Synagogue in Cracow, Poland remain even nominally in use. Out of the thousands of building that no longer survive, and hundreds that remain standing but threatened, these ten synagogues have been chosen not only for their importance, but because their preservation is possible. Once restored, all of these buildings will retain a Jewish identity.

WMF is helping to raise the funds to conserve the buildings. In some cases, local groups have formed to assist, and in most instances, local governments and Jewish communities have pledged their support. In each of its projects, WMF's Jewish Heritage Program unites communities worldwide with public and private agencies committed to the protection and preservation of Jewish heritage.

Preservation Priorities: Endangered Historic Jewish Sites contains photographs and information on the following sites:

1) Slonim, Belarus: Great Synagogue
2) Boskovice, Czech Republic: Great Synagogue
3) Pfaffenhoffen, France: synagogue
4) Hania, Greece (Crete): Etz Hayim Synagogue
5) Mád, Hungary: synagogue
6) Cochin, India: Paradesi Synagogue
7) Fez, Morocco: Ibn Danan Synagogue
8) Cracow, Poland: Tempel Synagogue
9) Pinczów, Poland: synagogue
10) Subotica,Yugoslavia: synagogue

Jewish Heritage Report will carry periodic updates on the progress of these projects. To obtain copies of Preservation Priorities ($9.00 per copy includes shipping and handling) or more information on preservation plans, contact the Jewish Heritage Program, WMF, 949 Park Ave, New York, NY 10028. Cracow, Poland. Ark, Tempel synagogue. Photo: Courtesy of WMF.

WMF Adopts Projects in Cracow, Hania, and Cochin

Tempel synagogue

Cracow Synagogue Restoration Continues with International Funding

Photo: Cracow, Poland. Ark, Tempel synagogue. Courtesy of WMF.

The World Monuments Fund (WMF) continues its restoration of the historic Tempel synagogue in Cracow, Poland. Work on Phase II, the restoration of the facade was completed in the summer of 1995. Phase III, interior restoration, has begun, with funding from the European Union and private donors. Extensive paint tests, carried out in the summer of 1996, together with a pre-1939 photo of the interior, have helped identify the rich wall decoration, much of which appears to have been painted over when the building was cleaned and partially refurbished for use after 1945. Conservators are now cleaning the entire interior and assessing the extent of the original paint surfaces. Consensus is to return the building to its inter-war appearance, the period which survivors remember and during which Osias Thon was rabbi. The Jewish community of Cracow owns the Tempel, which visiting Jewish groups now use with increasing frequency for religious services. It is one of the few intact synagogues in Poland, and the only intact synagogue remaining from the 19th century. It was built in 1860-62 just outside of the former "Jewish Town" of Kazimierz (now incorporated into the city), enlarged in 1893-94 and again in 1924. Its architecture, like its patronage, expressed the cultural cross fertilization in 19th-century Poland. The Tempel was among the finest synagogues of the Polish Jewish Reform movement, influenced by architectural developments in Germany. At the invitation of the Cracow Jewish Community, WMF began restoration of the building in 1994. When finished, the Tempel will remain a synagogue for local and visiting Jews. It will also host cultural events for the entire population of Cracow.

More information is available here on the World Monuments Fund web site.

Restoration to Begin in Hania (Crete)
The Etz Hayim synagogue in Hania was once the center of Crete's substantial Jewish community. It is the only surviving Jewish monument on the island, which lost its entire Jewish population in 1944. The 15th-century stone building was originally the church of St. Catherine and was converted to Jewish use in the late 17th century. The interior fittings and decorations of the synagogue have been destroyed, but numerous Hebrew inscriptions document its later history. Abandoned for fifty years, the building is in precarious condition. Restoration plans, supported by the Central Board of Jewish communities of Greece and the Municipality of Hania, will transform the structure into a Jewish museum and memorial, in addition to accommodating religious services. Dr. Nicholas Stavroulakis, former director of the Jewish Museum of Greece, serves as WMF's project manager in Hania. The project had received a $40,000 challenge grant from the Kress Foundation European Preservation Program, a $25,000 grant from the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and other private donations. Groundbreaking for the restoration is scheduled for spring of 1997.

More information is available here at the World Monuments Fund Web Site.

Cochin's Paradesi Synagogue Identified for Preservation
The Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin (India), built in 1568 by descendants of European Jews, is still in use. The interior white walls contrast with a rich array of Belgian crystal chandeliers and lanterns, an intricately carved wooden ark, a curved brass central bimah, wood benches, and hundreds of blue-and-white willow-patterned Chinese floor tiles, which date from the 18th century, when the prominent clock tower which proceeds the synagogue, was also added. Synagogue and tower require many repairs, and it is important that all work be carried out before neglect leads to serious damage. In addition, an endowment is required for the building to ensure future maintenance. A grant from Yad Hanadiv will fund preservation planning and emergency repairs.

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Updated: 24-Jul-98