News Release: Slonim Synagogue Saved #belarus

David M. Fox <fox@...>

Dear SIG Members,

While I am sure that members with ties to Slonim will be interested in
this news release, you should all be aware of efforts to preserve Jewish
buildings and cemeteries in Belarus.

David M. Fox
Arnold, MD USA
Belarus SIG Coordinator


Slonim Synagogue Saved

World Monument Fund and EEJHP Team up to Save Historic Landmark of East
European Jewry.

Minsk, 8 Janaury 2001. The East European Jewish Heritage Project
announced today that the first steps to assuring the preservation of the
historic Slonim Synagogue will be taken next week.

The historic building, listed by the World Monument Fund as the most
important Jewish structure in East Europe requiring restoration has long
been in a state of disrepair and jeopardy. Franklin J. Swartz, Executive
Director of the EEJHP, has lobbied for years for support to renew the
building. Finally with the support of Samuel Gruber, Director of the
International Survey of Jewish Monuments in the United States, the World
Monument Fund, also in the U.S., the U.K. based Conference of European
Rabbis, the Belarusian Government's Commission for the Preservation of the
Nation's Heritage and the Slonim Local Government conservation will
move ahead.

A WMF conservator and his team have already visited to begin work. 'I
am very heartened by this development,' said Mr. Swartz. Sam Gruber's
organisation and the WMF have an excellent track record. I hope that what
they were able to do in Krakow will be duplicated in Slonim.'

Located in the city centre the 16th century Synagogue was spared
destruction by both the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Air Force because of its
utility as a landmark for aerial navigation. After the war it was used as
a warehouse and for the past two decades has been empty. 'I was concerned
that unless work was begun rapidly we would have nothing to preserve', said
Mr. Swartz 'It is a great relief to me that work is finally beginning.'

The entire Jewish population of Slonim, 39,000 people, plus 2,000 Jews
from surrounding areas were murdered during the war. 'In many ways this
restoration will be a monument to a way of life which largely vanished
because of genocide, it is a monument that functions at many levels,' said
Mr. Swartz.

The Slonim Local Authority passed the title to the building over to the
Union of Religious Jewish Congregations of the Republic of Belarus in
November 2000. 'I am especially satisfied with this development',
said Mr. Swartz. 'We can be assured that the project will be in safe
hands. There has been an unfortunate history in Belarus of old line Soviet
apologists in the community misusing funds for memorials for their own
benefits. By passing the title to the building over to an organisation
run by a new generation in the Jewish community we can assure Western
donors of the integrity of the project.'Mr. Swartz pointed out that former
Communist Party Members who had actively supported repressive measures
during the Soviet period had attempted to prevent the restoration of the
synagogue as recently as last year. 'This was a disturbing development
but the failure of these attempts proves that the era of the 'Party Jew' is
coming to an end. This is another example of why the Slonim Synagogue is
not only a symbol of the past but a beacon of light for a renewed Jewish
future in East Europe.'

For more information about the Slonim Synagogue and other restoration
projects please contact:

Franklin J. Swartz
Executive Director
East European Jewish Heritage Project Ltd (USA)
East European Jewish Heritage Project (UK)
Jewish Revival Charitable Mission (Republic of Belarus)

13b Dauman Street
Minsk 220002
Tel/Fax: +375 17 234 3360 <>

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