An Overview of the Challenges Facing the Great Synagogue of Iaşi
The Great Synagogue of Iaşi is one of two synagogues left in Iaşi and is the oldest existing Jewish religious architectural monument in Romania. The edifice was in an advanced stage of physical deterioration due to natural aging, prolonged exposure to weather conditions, neglect, and devastation during times of racial, religious, and political persecution when Romania’s Ministry of Culture and Patrimony (MCP) began its conservation in 2006. In 2007, the contracting company (REMICON Ltd.) filed for bankruptcy. During the legal verification of the payment claims, MCP canceled the construction agreement and halted work at the site, and the synagogue was left to deteriorate behind scaffolding for nearly five years. After years of repeated appeals from the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania (FEDROM) to re-start this work, MCP recommenced the project. One of the best preservation contractors in Iaşi, IASICON LTD, was selected to complete the conservation work, which began during the second half of 2013. The contractors estimate that the entire project will cost 2.34 million lei (approximately US$700,000). Emergency conservation work, including roof repair and removing dampness from the foundations, was completed at the end of 2013. The MCP has not released what its allocation will be for phase two in 2014. FEDROM hopes that financial resources will be available, in time, for the remaining execution works, in order to avoid further deterioration of the synagogue. Currently, the edifice still stands with its walls uncovered, exposing the structure to the weather. The progressively diminishing of the Jewish community, in conjunction with the austerity program generated by the financial crisis, intensification of anti-Semitism, and increased acts of vandalism toward Jewish sacred sites, may condemn the Great Synagogue of Iaşi, this heritage site of remarkable historic, religious, architectural, and artistic value, to be forgotten. We are hopeful that its inclusion on the World Monuments Watch will help bring attention to this important site and help raise the necessary resources to preserve it for future generations.