Photo (c) Simon Geissbuehler
By Ruth Ellen Gruber
The historic 17th century Great Synagogue in Iasi, in northern Romania, is under restoration. The Swiss historian and diplomat simon Geissbuehler (who has written widely on Jewish heritage in Romania) visited the site last week and provided the picture above. He said the synagogue is empty, and that some work has been completed on the foundations, but that workers on the site did not have a time frame for the work's completion.
The synagogue was built in 1671 and is the oldest surviving synagogue building in Romania. (Before World War II, there were more than 110 synagogus in Iasi alone.) The synagogue has simple lines and tall dome and is set in a small garden, almost totally surrounded by new buildings. Inside, a huge, elaborate Ark, surrounded by frescoes, fills one end of the hall. The former women's gallery for years housed a small exhibit on local Jewish history, organized in the 1980s.