Preserving Jewish Architectural Heritage

A 16th-century Venetian synagogue – once part of that city’s oldest ghetto – is among five Jewish heritage projects scheduled for restoration and research, thanks to a $220,000 grant to the World Monuments Fund (WMF) from the David Berg Foundation of New York.

“From the outside it looks plain but inside it’s very lush,” says Sarah Sher, manager of the Jewish Heritage Program at the WMF. “It was a private synagogue founded by prominent families in the ghetto who could afford craftsmen for gilding and wood carving.”

The Schola Canton, built in 1532, has deteriorated rapidly in the humidity of Venice, so the WMF will begin to clean, repair and re-gild its interiors in March, 2015, using local conservators and artisans. Their work will be on view to the public.

“It’s a very popular museum, with multiple tours during the day,” she says. “It’s very vibrant.”

Since 1988, the WMF Jewish Heritage Program has worked to preserved about 50 such projects around the world. Others upcoming include:

  • The Great Synagogue of Iasi, Romania, the oldest in that nation
  • Split Synagogue, Croatia: built in the early sixteenth century and one of the oldest surviving Sephardic synagogues in Europe.
  • Subotica Synagogue in Serbia, a late 19th century Art Nouveau structure, for which a video and web presentation will be developed.
  • A research project into the Cape Verde community of Jews who, in the nineteenth century, married into local Catholic families and assimilated into the culture.

“We’re looking at how the Jewish heritage is connected around the world so we can connect this community worldwide,” she says. “We want to tell this story and make it a global story.”

And an architectural one as well.

[slideshow id=1133]