The Foundation for Jewish Heritage is advancing its plans to preserve the Great Synagogue of Slonim in appointing the Belarusian Voluntary Society for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments as architectural consultants to undertake design studies.
The Great Synagogue, a majestic baroque structure, has overlooked Slonim’s central market since the 1640s. It has tremendous significance as testimony to the centuries-old Jewish life and contribution in the region. We have been working for some time with local partners on the Synagogue’s preservation, and has funded a building survey, roof repairs and the installation of equipment to monitor structural movement.
Prior to formalising any intent to purchase, we have been keen to ensure that our approach is thorough, consultative, and able to deliver a long-term solution for the Synagogue as a profound educational site, memorial and historic landmark.
Our expectation is that the Synagogue will go to auction later in the year and we are confident we will then be able to offer a compelling vision for its restoration. We will be working closely with the Voluntary Society over the coming months, and publishing the study and our proposals for the future of the Synagogue in due course.
In addition to the Voluntary Society, the Foundation has a panel of international advisors, and will continue to engage local and international heritage experts as we develop our plans. The Foundation is especially keen to hear from and involve those with family connections to Slonim and the region. Preservation of the Synagogue will require substantial fundraising and we will now also step up our engagement with philanthropic organisations and invite their participation.
Simon Kaplinsky, Chair of the Foundation’s Steering Committee, commented, “as someone with my own family links to Slonim, I am delighted to be leading a team that is committed to saving the Great Synagogue. This important site is a symbol of the achievements of the Jewish community, and has the potential to contribute to cross-community understanding, and bring economic benefit to Slonim through being a tourist attraction.”
Michael Mail, Chief Executive of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, added, “The Great Synagogue is the most important Jewish heritage site in Belarus today. It represents shared heritage – it is Jewish heritage, Belarus heritage and European heritage. We hope that through our efforts we can preserve this remarkable building and have it once again serve a meaningful role in the life of Slonim