Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. I, No. 2 / Summer 1997
Getty Funds in Spisska Podhradie Restoration

Getty Funds Restoration in Spisska Podhradie, Slovakia

Synagogue in Spisska, Slovakia
Photo: Synagogue in Spisska Podhradie, Slovakia. © Henry Siegel 1997

In December 1996, the Getty Grant Program of the JP Getty Trust awarded $20,000 to the restoration of the synagogue in Spisska Podhradie, Slovakia (see JHR, March 1997). The project identification grant is funding phase I of the renovation of the small 19th-century structure. This includes compilation of historical and architectural materials, preparation of design proposals and documentation of the existing structure -- vacant since the Second World War. The project will require four more phases: 1) restoration of the interior and exterior, 2) construction of museum and exhibition facilities, 3) landscaping of the courtyard/garden area, and 4) raising an operating budget for the first year. Work began with a new roof in 1995, the first stage in making the building watertight. The proposed designs make a strong effort to adhere to the original architecture and experts are to be consulted regarding specific restoration plans. A few aspects of the proposed design, however, such as the removal of the women’s gallery in the final interior bay in order to provide a better concert setting, still have to be fully resolved. At issue is the degree in which historic synagogues, especially those which stand as typical examples of a class of vanished buildings can be altered to meet new needs without compromising their historic identity. The two-story synagogue was originally constructed in 1872, damaged by fire and later rebuilt in 1906.

The Jewish community in Spisska Podhradie was founded in 1868. The town, including the synagogue, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. The architecture is a much simplified version of the exemplary buildings of Ludwig von Förster – the Tempelgasse Synagogue of Vienna and the Dohany synagogue of Budapest. The Spisska synagogue, owned by the Jewish community, has been leased to the town for a symbolic sum in order to establish a Jewish Memorial and a Museum of Jewish History for the region. This is the third Getty grant given to initiate preservation of neglected historic synagogues. In 1992, the Getty Grant Program contributed $20,000 to begin restoration of Cracow’s Tempel Synagogue by the World Monuments Fund. In May of 1995, a $20,000 project identification grant was given to the municipality of Veroia, Greece for the synagogue there, followed in December 1996 with a $35,000 project preparation grant. The Getty has also made large grants to the Center for Jewish Art for the documentation of Polish Judaica.

Inquiries on the project may be directed to Henry Siegel, President of the Friends of Slovakia Association, Luda Zubka 9, #31, 841 01 Bratislava, Slovakia. Telephone/fax 0042 7 765 595/ Email: hsiegel@ibm.net.

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B. Berman
Updated: 24-Jul-98