No. 1/2001 - 15. January 2001

Elsebeth Paikin
Copenhagen, Denmark
The editorial staff:
Jack Blagman
Lori Miller
Estelle Nemoy

Slonim Synagogue Saved

Press release 8. January 2001 from: East European Jewish Heritage Project News

World Monument Fund and EEJHP
Team up to Save Historic Landmark of East European Jewry.

Minsk, 8 January 2001.

The East European Jewish Heritage Project announced today that the first steps to assuring the preservation of the historic Slonim Synagogue will be taken next week.

The historic building, listed by the World Monument Fund as the most important Jewish structure in East Europe requiring restoration has long been in a state of disrepair and jeopardy. Franklin J. Swartz, Executive Director of the EEJHP, has lobbied for years for support to renew the building. Finally with the support of Samuel Gruber, Director of the International Survey of Jewish Monuments in the United States, the World Monument Fund, also in the U.S., the U.K. based Conference of European Rabbis, the Belarusian Government's Commission for the Preservation of the Nation's Heritage and the Slonim Local Government conservation will move ahead.

A WMF conservator and his team have already visited to begin work. "I am very heartened by this development," said Mr. Swartz, "I hope that what they were able to do in Krakow will be duplicated in Slonim."

Located in the city centre the 16th century Synagogue was spared destruction by both the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Air Force because of its utility as a landmark for aerial navigation. "I was concerned that unless work was begun rapidly we would have nothing to preserve", said Mr. Swartz "It is a great relief to me that work is finally beginning."

The entire Jewish population of Slonim, 39,000 people, plus 2,000 Jews from surrounding areas were murdered during the war. "In many ways this restoration will be a monument to a way of life which largely vanished because of genocide, it is a monument that functions at many levels," said Mr. Swartz.

The Slonim Local Authority passed the title to the building over to the Union of Religious Jewish Congregations of the Republic of Belarus in November 2000. "I am especially satisfied with this development", said Mr. Swartz, "We can be assured that the project will be in safe hands. There has been an unfortunate history in Belarus of old line Soviet apologists in the community misusing funds for memorials for their own benefits. By passing the title to the building over to an organisation run by a new generation in the Jewish community we can assure Western donors of the integrity of the project." Mr. Swartz pointed out that former Communist Party Members who had actively supported "This is another example of why the Slonim Synagogue is not only a symbol of the past but a beacon of light for a renewed Jewish future in East Europe."

For more information about the Slonim Synagogue and other restoration projects please contact:

Franklin J. Swartz, Executive Director
East European Jewish Heritage Project Ltd (USA)
East European Jewish Heritage Project (UK)
Jewish Revival Charitable Mission (Republic of Belarus)
13b Dauman Street
Minsk 220002
Tel/Fax: +375 17 234 3360

Back to the index of the Belarus SIG Newsletters

Back to the Belarus SIG website