(JHE) — After years of efforts by a citizens’ group — and a recent major government grant — restoration work on the village synagogue in Laudenbach, Germany is beginning — and fragments of a geniza have been found in its attic.
The restoration work began in October, following the receipt in May of a €250,000 grant from the federal government’s monuments protection program.
“The synagogue is currently scaffolded,” George Schirmer, the chair of the Association, told JHE in an email.
A structural engineer prepares an expert opinion on the condition of the roof and a cost plan for the renovation of the building. In the next few weeks, an emergency roof will protect the house from rain and snow. We hope that the emergency roof can be removed again next year and the renovation work can begin. The first step is to secure the roof and the statics so that the building can be safely entered again.
During preliminary work, the roof tiles were removed and fragments of a geniza were found in the area between the roof tiles and the masonry. “These are small finds of documents in Hebrew, German and Yiddish, a few tefillin and a prayer capsule,” Schirmer said. (A fuller geniza had already been discovered during a survey of the site in 2016.)
The new finds have been taken to the Veitshöchheim Jewish Culture Museum, which has a geniza project, for care and analysis.
The synagogue is believed to have been built, originally as a residence, in the mid-17th century; it was then renovated in 1737. According to the Association, “The authorities imposed conditions on the building project, and above all they demanded that the synagogue should not ‘look like a church from the outside but look like another bourgeois house.'” It was gutted on Kristallnacht but not torched, as it was surrounded by other buildings. Later, it was used for storage until the city of Karlstadt purchased it in 2015.
The Federal grant was obtained through the mediation of the Bundestag member Bernd Rützel.
“The former synagogue in Laudenbach is a symbol of the more than 500 years old Jewish culture in the region,” he said on his web site in May.
Without conservation measures, it is threatened with decay. Mayor Kruck asked me to help finance the urgently needed renovation. Since then I have also been in contact with the support group of the former synagogue. An architecture office and the state monument protection authority were involved. Together we have now succeeded in setting an important building block for the renovation: The federal government is supporting the project with 250,000 euros from the 2020 special monument protection program.
The synagogue restoration is not the only Jewish heritage project going forward in Laudenbach.
As we wrote last week, the Jewish cemetery is also undergoing detailed documentation of the inscriptions on its 2,326 headstones as part of a three-year project to document all the Jewish cemeteries in Bavaria.