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Historic Synagogues of Europe

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Bimah in the Great Synagogue in Slonim (1635-42), Belarus
Bimah in the Great Synagogue in Slonim (1635-42), Belarus © Center for Jewish Art
The Jewish presence in Europe goes back over 2,500 years and this is reflected in a rich and remarkable cultural legacy stretching right across the continent - north to south, east to west.

The most emblematic feature of the Jewish communities in the cities, towns and villages of Europe has been the synagogues they built, many of them displaying real artistic and architectural accomplishment. These buildings are portals into the Jewish life that they nurtured and sustained, and it is to these sites - and their communities - that this website is dedicated.

The Foundation for Jewish Heritage has as its mission the preservation of Jewish Heritage and its approach has been to consider the issue from a comprehensive and strategic perspective. Hence one of its first acts was to commission the Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to use its extensive knowledge and expertise to provide an inventory of all the historic synagogues of Europe. Never before has such a listing been brought together in one location and made publicly available.

In addition, and crucial for the Foundation's own purposes, the Center was asked to rate the historic synagogues according to two categories: (i) significance and (ii) condition of building fabric. This will enable the Foundation to focus its efforts on the most important sites most at risk.

However, as well as guiding the Foundation's future work, this research also serves a broader purpose; bringing to a wide audience the current situation of the historic synagogues of Europe - both achievements in terms of preservation, and challenges that remain. In so doing, the website aims to promote a debate - and activity - to ensure that all the synagogues in danger are acknowledged, assessed and ultimately preserved.

So this site is a call to action. Yet it is also a celebration, recognising a remarkable millennia-old Jewish presence, and a unique contribution to European cultural heritage.

Foundation for Jewish Heritage

The Foundation for Jewish Heritage is exclusively dedicated to the preservation of Jewish architectural heritage, working internationally to ensure a future for historic synagogues, Jewish monuments and places of cultural significance.

Center for Jewish Art

The Center for Jewish Art is a research institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, dedicated to the documentation, research, and teaching of Jewish visual heritage all over the world.