Council of Europe adopts far-reaching resolution on Jewish heritage preservation

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has adopted a far-reaching Resolution and a set of Recommendations that recognise the importance of Jewish heritage and call for local, national, and international efforts to preserve and protect Jewish heritage sites around the continent.

The documents were prepared by Swiss MP Raphael Comte, who also prepared a detailed Explanatory Memorandum — a lengthy report that explains and documents the background to the Resolution and Recommendations.

These documents — which should be viewed as a whole — represent a major step in the international European institutional recognition of the value and importance of Jewish heritage. They reference Jewish tangible and intangible heritage but focus on Jewish built heritage.

Among other things, the documents note that “fewer than one quarter of historic synagogue buildings in Europe still function as synagogues, [and] the majority are often neglected and are therefore especially vulnerable.”

The Report provides figures based on the inventory of synagogues commissioned by the Foundation for Jewish Heritage and prepared by researchers at the Center for Jewish Art.

It also provides case studies on six synagogues that are either under restoration, have been restored, or are at the center of plans for restoration.

These briefly summarize the history of the building, the challenges in preserving it, and steps that are planned or already undertaken.

The synagogues come under different ownership and the restoration projects have been funded, carried out, and managed by a number of different sources and stakeholders.

These are the White Stork Synagogue in Wroclaw, Poland; the Etz Hayim Synagogue, Izmir, Turkey; the Wooden Synagogue, Pakruojis, Lithuania; the Synagogue, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales; the Great Synagogue, Dąbrowa Tarnowska, Poland; the Second Temple Synagogue, Hamburg, Germany.

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