The World Monuments Fund has placed the 17th century Great Synagogue in Iaşi, in northern Romania, on its 2014 Watch list of endangered cultural heritage sites, underscoring the threats to the historic building, the oldest synagogue in Romania and one of only two synagogues still standing in a city that before World War II had more than 100. Originally built in 1670-1671, and rebuilt successively in 1761, 1822, 1863 because of fire and other devastation, it is listed as a historical monument.
Launched in 1996 and issued every two years, the Watch is the flagship advocacy program of WMF, aimed at focusing attention on key threatened sites.
In her presentation at the April conference in Krakow on Managing Jewish Immovable Heritage in Europe, Lucia Apostol of the Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities focused on the Iaşi situation, a botched and stalled restoration that can only be described as a horror story.
Restoration of the building, funded only by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, began in 2007 but was halted in 2009, when Remicon Ltd, the construction company that had won the bid to carry out the work went bankrupt, leaving the building in a perilous condition, with its future uncertain. Surrounded by scaffolding, its walls are left uncovered and its dome stripped of its protective metal roofing.
This year’s WMF Watch includes 67 sites in 41 countries that are “at risk from the forces of nature and the impact of social, political, and economic change.”
It “serves as a call to action, bringing the fragility of the sites and the dangers they face to international attention. It also identifies opportunities for local communities to work together with the larger preservation community, government organizations, corporate sponsors, and others to help ensure their future.”