The Slonim Steering Committee of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage has made a significant contribution to the preservation of the Great Synagogue since its launch in 2017.
When the Committee arrived on the scene to offer assistance, the Synagogue was owned by the Slonim Municipality. There were no plans for the building, the roof was leaking and there was no understanding of how stable the building was. The Committee raised funds and then organised roof repairs which stopped the water ingress, placed monitors on the main structure which revealed that movement was, if anything, slight, and arranged a detailed building survey along with a costed architectural feasibility study. We also helped to raise the profile of the building internationally which spurred the Municipality into action.
The Municipality decided to put the building up for auction. Ownership had not been the Committee’s aim and it decided not to take part in the auction, not anyway having had the time before the auction to carry out a full assessment of the opportunities and risks. Furthermore, the auction was taking place at a time when the political situation in the country was dramatically worsening and the covid pandemic was upon us.
The Synagogue was sold at the auction and, as the aspirations of the new owner are similar to those of the Committee, it has provided assistance, passing over information on the work already done and its network of those involved.
Given the new situation of the building now having a local owner dedicated to saving it, along with the political developments in the country and the ongoing concerns regarding covid, the Foundation has reviewed its involvement. The new owner is on the spot and is able to arrange matters at first hand, and she has aims which we support. The Foundation has therefore decided that it would be inappropriate for it to continue to take a leadership role in saving the Synagogue, but rather that it should offer support in the manner it extends to other locally based initiatives. The Steering Committee did succeed in plotting a route for the renovation of the synagogue, and its role has now come to a close. Committee members will continue to be involved with the Foundation and will also consider whether to continue a form of involvement with the Synagogue independent of the Foundation.
We wish the new owner Ioanna Reeves success in her endeavours and the Foundation will continue to make itself available to offer advice.
Michael Mail, CEO, Foundation for Jewish Heritage
Simon Kaplinsky, Chairman, Slonim Steering Committee