Our vision for the Great Synagogue is to ensure that this hugely important Jewish, Belarusian and European heritage site is recognised, preserved, and brought back into meaningful use as an educational centre on the vibrant Jewish life that was, a memorial to the Holocaust, a cross-cultural meeting place, place of worship, and a cultural venue.
Delivering the Vision
In 2018 the Foundation for Jewish Heritage set up a Slonim Steering Committee through which we work with the Mayor and people of Slonim, together with descendants of Slonim Jewish families, to develop detailed preservation proposals for the Great Synagogue and its surrounds. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Steering Committee and Slonim Municipality expressing the determination of both sides to work together to enact the project. As it advances, the Mayor plans to reorganise and landscape the public realm to enhance the surroundings.
We are now exploring taking ownership of the Great Synagogue. Once completed, we can proceed with detailed feasibility and design studies in preparation for its restoration.
There are five broad phases to the project:
1. Structural Survey
This, now completed stage, assessed the current state of the building identifying and implementing urgent repair work.
2. Purchasing and Protecting the Building
The Foundation purchases the synagogue and then secures it to prevent any further deterioration of the exterior and interior, particularly of the unique wall paintings and decorated bimah and ark. An incremental approach has been adopted, with an initial focus on fixing the roof which has been completed. We are now awaiting an estimate for further protective works.
3. Feasibility Study
An initial design study has been commissioned to explore the potential of the building. This will be followed by a wider range of studies to define the future options and test the validity of the vision. It will involve wide consultation with a range of stakeholders within Slonim and beyond, including descendants of the Jewish community, and will result in a preferred option being determined. This preferred option will include a business plan with full costings, the identification of potential funding sources, and a governance and organisational structure. Historical and archaeological research and investigations will be an important part of this stage.
The study will be undertaken by a mixture of local consultants and international specialists, and will adhere to recognised standards of restoration.
This is to fully realise the project implementing the conclusions of the previous feasibility study phase.
There will be monitoring of the project throughout the process.
In December 2020 the Foundation prepared drawings to illustrate the potential of the Synagogue as a memorial to its past and its use as a cultural and educational centre. They are not intended to be a design, but rather to show what remains of the synagogue and indicate how repairs and improvements could be made.
The drawings also include the area around the synagogue and showing more of the Jewish heritage from its surrounds. This
suggests successful restoration of the synagogue is dependent on the City Authorities making access available from the land that is now part of the market.
These drawings can be viewed below.