Friday, August 15, 2008

Synagogue Exhibit in Romania

On the weekend of Aug. 22-23, the "Proetnica" interethnic festival in Sighisoara, Romania will feature a exhibit of photographs of synagogues in southern Transylvania, taken by Christian Binder.

Venue for the exhibit is the lovely synagogue in Sighisoara, at Str. Tache Ionescu 13.

According to the press release, the exhibit "attempts to capture the interesting transitional stage in which Romania now finds itself – with the entrance of outside, foreign investors and NGOs, some synagogues have been or are being restored and turned into cultural centres or finding other alternative uses. Others remain abandoned, often assuming a central location in the town's centre, an evocative, stubborn reminder of recent past – and of today's reluctance to address Romania's troubled relationship with this history. The questions are numerous – what will become of these buildings now that they can be used again? Will their respective towns take responsibility for their upkeep, how can they be integrated into a long-term plan for urban or rural renewal? And how can the countless still decrepit synagogues, many of significant historical and architectural value, be incorporated into a systematic and far-reaching plan for commemorating and celebrating a culture formerly a vibrant part of Romania's multi-cultural existence?"

(Facade of the synagogue in Alba Iulia, Romania. (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber, 2006)

About 10,000 Jews live in Romania, about half in Bucharest, the rest scattered in many small and very small communities. The number is inexact, as community membership may include non-Jewish spouses and family members.

As many as 100 synagogue buildings still stand in Romania, in one form or another. While many are in poor repair, about 50 are used at least occasionally for religious services and a number of them are listed as historic monuments. In addition, there are more than 800 Jewish cemeteries in Romania. (I have posted photo galleries of several Jewish heritage sites in Romania on my web site.)

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