2018-02-14 / World News

British foundation unveils map of Europe’s synagogues

Europe has 3,318 synagogues, according to a new British organization that unveiled what it said was the first-ever pan-continental study of Jewish houses of worship.

The Foundation for Jewish Heritage, which was registered in the United Kingdom in 2015 and aims to help preserve and restore endangered European synagogues, commissioned the Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to tally and document Europe’s synagogues ahead of the foundation’s launch Wednesday in London, said Michael Mail, the foundation’s chief executive.

The results of the study, which took a year and a half to complete, are on display on an interactive map accessible on the foundation’s website. The map’s database includes a detailed classification for each registered synagogue, including such categories as its current condition, ranging from bad to excellent, its significance as a monument and its current status: used, disused or converted to serve as any one of a dozen purposes, including police station, mosque, garage and funeral parlor.

One synagogue mapped by the foundation in Poznan, Poland, is today a swimming pool. Another in Krakow, Poland, is a bar, Mail said.

Beyond providing researchers a continental overview that Mail said did not exist prior to the study, it also aims to serve as a reference point for philanthropists, added Mail, whose foundation identified some 160 synagogues in imminent risk of being ruined beyond the point of restoration.

Before World War II, Europe had some 17,000 synagogues, Mail said. Less than a quarter of the synagogues mapped by The Foundation for Jewish Heritage are now being used as such. (JTA)

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