Friday, March 30, 2012

Moldova -- Fire Damages Ruined Chisinau Synagogue Listed as Historic Monument

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Here's a cross post from Jewish Heritage Europe -- Claude Cahn, who lives near this synagogue in Chisinau, says he will check the site and provide more information:

According to a report (including video) on Moldovan TV, fire -- possibly due to arson -- has damaged what had been the already gaping ruins of an early 20th century synagogue, located on Rabbi Tirelson street. The fire was doused within half an hour and the extent of the damage was not clear.

The media quote neighbors as saying the ruined synagogue - which despite its condition was listed as a local historic monument -- had been bought recently by a group of Jews who wanted to rebuilt it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Budapest -- Q6Q7 Jewish District Festival Holds a Spring Edition at Passover

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

For the past few years, Budapest's downtown Jewish Quarter, straddling the 7th and 6th Districts, has been the scene of a Hanukkah festival that takes place in various local clubs, galleries, restaurants, cafes and other venues.

This Spring, the organizers are offering a similar Quarter6Quarter7 festival over Passover, April 6-14.

The program includes both first and second night seders, as well as concerts, dances, films, talks and guided tours of the district.

Budapest -- Jewish Heritage Conference

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I'm taking part in what promises to be a fascinating conference tomorrow and Thursday in Budapest on Jewish Heritage in the Digital Era. Some of the top people in the field in Central Europe will be presenting and the discussion should be interesting. I'll be presenting on the Jewish Heritage Europe web site and how we hope it follows up on the Bratislava meeting held 3 years ago.

Here's the program:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Slovakia --1966 footage of synagogue & destruction of Bratislava Jewish quarter

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Thanks to David Kraus, here is some extraordinary footage from Bratislava in 1966, showing the beginning of the destruction of parts of the Old Town, including the historic Jewish quarter, to make way for the construction of the New Bridge. There are some remarkable shots of the twin-towered, Moorish style synagogue before its demolition in the path of the construction.

Jewish Cemetery in Poland Vandalized

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Police are investigating a vandal attack on the Jewish cemetery in Wysokie Mazowieckie, Poland, which took place the night of March 18.

Unknown persons spray-painted swastikas and anti-semitic images and slogans, including a favorite slogan of neo-Nazi groups, "Here is Poland -- not Israel.".

The incident is the latest in a series of vandal attacks against Jewish heritage sites in that part of Poland.

Monika Krawczyk, the CEO of FODZ, the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, notes that FODZ renovated the cemetery in 2006 and regularly maintains it, and the cemetery is enclosed by a fence. But this did not deter the vandals.

You can see a gallery of pictures of the damage provided by Monica on the web site

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Off Geographical Topic -- historic synagogues being razed in US

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Every so often I like (or actually dislike) to post news demonstrating how some of the issues regarding what to do with deteriorating or dilapidated synagogues also affect buildings in the United States. Of course, the history is different: the buildings in the US did not lose their congregations because of the Holocaust (or communist pressure) but by normal demographic shifts. Still, there are parallels about preservation versus urban development; funding, memory, and the significance of built heritage.

Two cases in the U.S. are current: the planned demolition of the historic Anshe Kenesseth Israel synagogue building in Chicago, and the threatened demolition of the former Ahavath Sholom synagogue, in Buffalo, NY.

In Chicago, architectural blogger Lee Bey reports that

The old Anshe Kenesseth Israel temple, 3411 W. Douglas Blvd, will come down by force of an emergency demolition order issued by a judge last December. Preservationists, neighborhood residents and the building's owners, Abundant Life World Outreach ministry, had been working to delay demolition and develop a fundraising and reuse plan for the building, As recently as last Sunday, they cleaned up the building's exterior in hopes of convincing the city not to raze the structure.
The owners changed their mind, he reports, and demolition was expected to begin very soon. The once-grand synagogue was built in 1913,  when the neighborhood was largely Jewish. Later, as the neighborhood changed, it became an African-American Baptist church, where Martin Luther King spoke in the 1960s. It closed about a decade ago and has since stood empty. Lee Bey provides vivid photographic documentation  that shows its dual history.

There is a lengthy article, with pictures, about the Buffalo synagogue on the FixBuffalo blog. Built in 1903,  too became a church,  Greater New Hope Church of God in Christ, in the 1960s and has stood empty for a decade. The demolition order was issued in December, despite the fact that the building has been designated a local landmark.

In December, Housing Court Judge Patrick Carney issued an order to demolish the City's oldest synagogue, one of the last remaining vestiges of Jewish life on the City's East Side.    The familiar onion domed landmark on Jefferson Avenue was designed by A. E. Minks and Sons and built in 1903.  With the cooperation of Rev. Jerome Ferrell and his congregation, the Greater New Hope Church of God in Christ, this historic structure was designated a local landmark by the City's Preservation Board in 1997. 

Samuel D. Gruber discusses the case of the Buffalo synagogue on his blog

The structure is now empty and in disrepair.  The building is one of the last standing synagogue of the "facade-dome" type that was popular at the end of the 19th century.  

Architecturally, the building is most readily notable for its single 'onion' style dome set over the central entrance bay of the facade.  Variations of this type of arrangement are known in synagogue architecture beginning in Europe in the mid-19th century.  One example is the destroyed synagogue of Jelgava, Latvia.  The style was especially common in Moorish style buildings such as Ahavath Sholom.  Major American examples include Temple Sinai in Chicago (Dankmar Adler, arch.) and Temple Beth El in New York (Brunner & Tryon, archs.) which were demolished decades ago. Tiny Gemiluth Chassed in Port Gibson, Mississippi survives. Time may not be long for Buffalo's Ahavath Sholom, but local efforts to save the building may stave off the wrecking ball. [...]
You can read more about the synagogue in this article by Chana Kotzin from the February 10, 2012  issue of the Buffalo Jewish Review.  Kotzin runs the Buffalo Jewish archives and has been collecting history about the building, its congregation and the old East Side Jewish neighborhood. 

 There is a Flickr feed of photos of the synagogue HERE.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Czech Republic -- Memorial plaque on former Kutna Hora synagogue

Kutna Hora former synagogue. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

A memorial plaque to Holocaust victims has been placed on the former synagogue in Kutna Hora, a charming town an hour's drive east of Prague that is famous for its silver mines and St. Barbara church.

"The plaque was the idea of Mr Marek Lauermann, a young person who is a descendant of a Jewish family that was one of the few from Kutná Hora who partially survived the Holocaust. Marek has long been active in this area, he has released several publications, and he had this memorial plaque designed with our cooperation," Mayor Ivo Šanc said.[...]  The Culture to the Town (Kultura do města) association in Kutná Hora has long been involved in preserving the history of the small Jewish community there, which has almost vanished from the memory of its residents. The association organized events as part of the Year of Jewish Culture and published the book "Jews in the Kutná Hora Area - Forgotten Neighbors" (Židé na Kutnohorsku - Zapomenutí sousedé).
Read full story

Kutna Hora former synagogue. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Jews were barred from living in this mining town from 1568-1848. The surviving synagogue, at ul. Smiskova  619, was built in 1902 in Art Nouveau style. During World War II the Nazis derported the town's Jews to Terezin; few survived. During the war the synagogue was used as a factory making pipe organs. Since 1947 it has been used by the Hussite Church. Most of the decorative elements have been removed.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Jewish Culture, etc., Festivals in 2012

Festival of the Jewish Book, Ferrara, Italy, 2011. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

As usual, I am trying to put together a list of as many as possible of the numerous Jewish festivals -- culture, film, dance, etc -- that take place each year around Europe.  I've already missed a few that have taken place this winter -- Please help me by sending me information!

The big culture festivals and other smaller events make good destinations around which to center a trip. Some, like the annual Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow, are huge events lasting a week or more, which draw thousands of people and offer scores or sometimes hundreds of performances, lectures, concerts, exhibits and the like. Other festivals are much less ambitious. Some are primarily workshops but also feature concerts. Many of the same artists perform at more than one festival.

 The list will be growing and growing -- and again,  I ask my readers to please send me information and links to upcoming events. Thanks!


Sept. 2, 2012 -- 13th European Day of Jewish Culture. This year's theme is Jewish Humor


April 19-May 23 -- Vienna --  Weanhean: Das Wienerliedfestival (Jewish music and performers are featured this year)


 August 28-Sept. 6 -- Pula -- Bejahad: the Jewish Cultural Scene


July 5-8 -- Boskovice -- UniJazz2012: 19th Festival for the Jewish Quarter

July 30-August 4 -- Trebic --  Trebic Jewish Festival held in one of the most extensive and best-preserved old Jewish quarters in Europe, part of the town's UNESCO-listed historic center.


April 9-15 -- Weimar -- Weimar Winter Edition

 June 3-16 -- Berlin & Potsdam -- 18th Jewish Film Festival

July 21-August 21 -- Weimar -- Yiddish Summer Weimar 


June 24-July 1 -- Leeds -- 12th International Jewish Performing Arts Festival


April 6-14 -- Budapest -- Quarter6Quarter7 Spring Festival, over Passover

July 20-22 -- Bank Lake -- Bankito Festival

November 10-18 -- Szombathely --  Jewish Festival Szombathely


April 28-May 1 -- Ferrara -- Festival of the Jewish Book

July 29-August 5 -- Straits of Messina -- Horcynus Festival This year's focus is on Israel and Jewish culture.

September 2-8 -- Puglia Region -- Lech Lecha Festival

November 3-7 -- Rome -- Pitigliani Kolno'a Jewish & Israeli Film Festival


April 17-21 -- Radom -- 4th annual "Meeting with Jewish Culture"

April 18-22 -- Warsaw -- New Jewish Music Festival

April 25-29 -- Warsaw -- Jewish Motifs International Film Festival

May 11-13 -- Oswiecim -- Oswiecim Life Festival

May 13-16 -- Warsaw -- Jewish Book Days 

June  2 -- Krakow -- 7@Nite - Night of the Synagogues

June 29-July 8 -- Krakow -- Jewish Culture Festival

August 10-12  -- Jelenia Gora -- Jewish Culture Festival

August 26-September 2 -- Warsaw -- Singer's Warsaw Festival

September 14-22 -- Lodz -- Festival of Four Cultures

October 4-7 -- Wlodawa -- Festival of Three Cultures


April 27-May 3 -- Bucharest -- 2nd Bucharest Jewish Film Festival


March 8, 2012 -- Moscow -- Yiddish Fest


June 20-24 -- Belgrade -- Ethno Fusion Fest: Many musics in the courtyard of the Belgrade Synagogue


July 7-15 -- Kosice -- Mazal Tov -- 1st Jewish Culture Festival in Kosice


Sept. 6-12 -- Drohobych -- Fifth Bruno Schulz Festival


From New York not Europe, but relevant

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

My friend Julian Voloj, who was born in Germany, has been photographing former synagogue building in New York City for nearly a decade. He has amassed an important collection of images -- 12 of which are on display at an exhibit in Sag Harbor, NY.

One would think that because American Judaism is alive and well in New York City, there would be lots of people advocating to protect some of these sites. But Voloj found himself in “a race against the clock to make sure what I was documenting would still be there. There was one place that was torn down before I could get inside.”

Of the 1200 photos that Voloj took on his expeditions around New York, he has selected 12 for his exhibition at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor.

“One photo is of a now-supermarket that used to be a Jewish site, and you can see two lions and The Ten Commandments,” said Voloj. “Another is a cross nailed on a Star of David, and there’s one image from the oldest Jewish cemetery in North America, in Chinatown. There’s one gravestone that stands alone. It’s a nice link because the gravestone goes back to the roots of North American Judaism.”
Read full article

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New App -- Jewish Geography Game

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Jono David, who has a vast library of photographs he has taken of Jewish heritage sites, has turned is pictures into an "Jewish Geography" quiz game app for I-Pad and other devices. Looks fun! I will buy it and see how I do!