The synagogue in Arlon, in southeast Belgium — the oldest in Belgium — has been reopened after a fullscale renovation project over the past five years that repaired structural and other damage to both the exterior and interior of the building.
The facade underwent complete restoration as did the sanctuary. Local Muslims contributed funding to the renovation project.
See a TV report about the restoration:
The synagogue closed in April 2014 because of danger of collapse from the damage from moisture and dry rot. It was rededicated with a ceremony in September coinciding with the 31st annual Day of Wallonian Heritage and hosted Rosh Hashana services.
According to Rabbi Jean-Claude Jacob, it was initially thought that there was dry rot in the synagogue’s arches, but it turned out that the damage was much more widespread and also affected the balconies.
The synagogue, with two slim side towers and a tall central arch over the portal and rose window, was designed by the provincial architect Albert Janot in the neo-Romanesque style and was inaugurated in 1865.
Arlon is home to a small Jewish congregation of about 50 members, but until its closure the synagogue hosted regular Shabbat services as well as concerts and other events.
After its closure in 2014, the local Muslim community helped raised funds for the building’s renovation — the Association des Musulmans d’Arlon was reported have raised around €2,400 toward the estimated €400,000 cost of the repairs.
“Rabbi Jacob had said in a local newspaper that he had become a ‘wandering Jew,’” Dr. Mohamed Bouezmarni, administrator of the Association des Musulmans d’Arlon, told Liam Hoare, writing for eJewish Philanthropy.
“We decided to intervene as we were deeply touched. We know this situation because we have not a mosque either for our Services.”
“The Muslim community has been responsible in its approach and joined the action. There was some reluctance. Some people didn’t understand why we wanted to raise money and help the synagogue while we barely can ensure the rental of our own building. With teaching skills and reminding the values of generosity, sharing, equity and belief in the future that extols our Religion, the last reluctance vanished.”