Pfaffenhoffen Synagogue is an exceptional example of French Alsatian rural synagogue architecture. Built in 1791, the building has a steep pitched tiled roof and simple interior—a modest architectural style common in Alsace. The ground floor includes a large meeting room, a small kitchen, and a room once used to accommodate travelers. It also features a stone fountain with a Hebrew inscription dating the fountain to 1744. On the second floor is the sanctuary, plus a school, and a small women’s gallery covered by latticework screens. A Torah ark carved with lions, and straight-backed benches with scroll-work armrests have survived, but over time the building was vandalized and on the verge of collapsing from water damage. From the fourteenth century until 1791, synagogue construction was banned in this region, and thus synagogue architecture from the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries is poorly represented.
A museum of Alsatian-Jewish life
World Monuments Fund began conservation work on Pfaffenhoffen Synagogue in 1996. The cracked foundation was fixed, followed by conservation of the historic furnishings. A national historic monument, the synagogue was opened to the public in 2000 as a museum of Alsatian-Jewish life.
Jewish communities moved or disappeared, and many of the synagogues lost their religious identity and were converted into homes, garages, and theaters. Pfaffenhoffen is one of two synagogues in the area, the other dating back to 1787 in Mutzig, which remains intact as a Jewish religious institution in French Alsace.