Historic 17th century Slonim synagogue up for auction

The historic abandoned synagogue in Slonim, Belarus is up for sale. The Slonim District Executive Committee Department of Culture has put it up for auction in Grodno on June 15, 2020, local media reported. The starting price is €50,000.

Built in 1642 in the Baroque style, the synagogue, owned by the municipality, is the best preserved synagogue in Belarus, despite its precarious condition. Its interior preserves frescoes, a decorated Ark, and a four-pillar bimah, as well as other features. The synagogue has long been the focus of fitful attempts at restoration.

Sale of the synagogue would be bound by certain restrictions due to the historic nature of the building, the media reports said.

It will be possible to reconstruct the synagogue as a religious building, or for cultural, educational or performance purposes. Moreover, “artistic, stylistic and design features” must be retained. A 5-year limit for carrying out the restoration process is also included in the terms.

The Slonim synagogue is currently the focus of a restoration campaign, initiated under the auspices of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage (FJH). Already in the mid-1990s, the World Monument Fund put the Slonim synagogue on its Watch List of 10 Jewish heritage preservation priorities; the WMF funded restoration work on the building in the early 2000s.

The building, with its dramatic gabled roof and imposing exterior, features an impressive group of paintings and carvings, including a collection of murals depicting musical instruments, scrollwork, and biblical scenes.

Though built for the city’s once-sizeable Jewish community, in recent years Slonim has undergone substantial deterioration, largely as a result of the decimation of the local population during World War II and subsequent disuse of the synagogue. The building was used as a warehouse and was subject to vandalism, resulting in serious structural problems.


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