Work is progressing on the ambitious project to restore the unique complex of synagogues and Jewish sites in Izmir — the latest good news is that the restoration of the Beit Hillel synagogue, which had been dilapidated to the point of collapse, is almost complete after reconstruction works begun in April 2013, and the building will soon open as the Rabbi Chaim Palaci Museum. The restoration was paid by the city of Izmir.
The synagogue was founded in 1840 in the private home of the Palaci family, a family of famous rabbis. Rabbi Chaim Palaci and his son, Rabbi Avraham Palache led the community for many years.
The Izmir Project is an international initiative led by the Kiriaty Foundation to save Izmir’s unique complex of synagogues and “create a living cultural monument to the rich Jewish heritage of the city.” It cooperates with the local municipality and the Jewish community to restore and reconstruct seven of Izmir’s synagogues and historic community buildings, and construct a museum with a cultural center. Four contiguous synagogues within Izmir’s historic bazaar have been designated as the core of the restoration project: Hevra, Algazi, Signora-Giveret and the ruins of the Foresteros synagogue. Combined with two other adjacent synagogues: Etz Chaim and Shalom, in addition the Bikur-Holim synagogue nearby; they form a unique complex of diverse Sephardic synagogue styles.
The new Izmir Jewish Heritage web site has details on the project and on Jewish heritage in Izmir in general, including tourist information and itineraries.
In further news, Nesim Bencoya, the Izmir Site Manager for the Kiriaty Foundation reports that:
— the basement beams supporting the floor of the Algazi Synagogue are being renovated and replaced so as to prevent any collapse. The basement was once used as a temporary geniza and prayer room .
— The 16th century Etz Chaim Synagogue’s floor and roof have been stabilized and works to prevent its collapse have been carried out. A full restoration plan is now being prepared by architects.