It was a real Hanukkah celebration — the Great Synagogue in Iaşi, Romania, the oldest surviving synagogue in the country, was rededicated December 3 after a dozen years of fitful restoration work. Mazel Tov to all involved!
The ancient sanctuary was packed with dignitaries and local people for the event. (See a video of the entire ceremony below).
One of only two synagogues still standing in a city that before World War II had more than 100, the Great Synagogue was 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.
The final stage in the project was the completion of the delicate restoration of the carved and painted wooden ark, a process supported by the World Monuments Fund. The work on the Ark, which dates from the 1860s, was carried out by a team led by the expert restorer Pia Stinghe (who carried on after the death of her husband Mihai in 2016).
The WMF had placed the synagogue on its 2014 Watch List of endangered cultural heritage sites, underscoring the threats to the building, which had suffered greatly over the preceding decade due to years of botched and incomplete restoration work that had left it open to the weather.
Watch a video of the entire dedication ceremony — with general views of the sanctuaray and close ups of some of the detailed work – posted on Facebook by local television:
We have followed the restoration project over the past years — search for Iaşi on the web site to see our previous articles and photos documenting the restoration process.