New books about synagogues have recently been published in France, Italy, and Croatia.
Each is quite different from the others, looking at synagogues, their history, and their architecture from very different perspectives — popular, scholarly, and artistic.
Take a look.
SINAGOGHE ITALIANE: Raccontate e Disegnate
Edizione Biblioteca dell’Imagine
336 Pages, ISBN 978-88-6391-310-1
An armchair guidebook published at a time when most travel has been curtailed by the pandemic, this paperback takes readers to 42 synagogues all around Italy, from north to south, combining text by Smulevich with colorful watercolor paintings by Fabris.
Text and pictures are meant to complement each other in creating an informal guide to more than 2000 years of Jewish history and culture on the Italian peninsula, told through stories and images related to the synagogues themselves.
The synagogues included are those in Trieste, Gorizia, Venezia, Verona, Padova, Merano, Torino, Casale Monferrato, Vercelli, Alessandria, Asti, Biella, Carmagnola, Cherasco, Cuneo, Ivrea, Mondovì, Saluzzo, Milano, Mantova, Sabbioneta, Genova, Ferrara, Bologna, Modena, Parma, Carpi, Reggio Emilia, Soragna, Firenze, Livorno, Pisa, Siena, Pitigliano, Roma, Ancona, Pesaro, Senigallia, Urbino, Napoli, Trani, and Palermo
Smulevich, a journalist with Italy’s Jewish communal media and publications, also provides introductory sections on the general history of synagogues and of Jews in Italy.
Fabris, an architect and painter, lives and works in Venice.
Les Synagogues de l’Exil
By David Abitbol
Les Editions Messengers
204 pages, ISBN 978-2-9575212-0-3
A large-format (31 cm x 31 cm) coffee table style book centering on spectacular photographs of 52 synagogues in 12 countries by the Paris-based photographer David Abitbol, with text by Bérénice Foussard Nakache describing each synagogue’s history and architecture. There is a preface by the Chief Rabbi of France, Haïm Korsia.
Abitbol includes synagogues in: France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, England, Switzerland, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia, and Romania.
Abitbol told JHE in an email that focusing on the synagogues was a way to celebrate “the greatness of the Jewish people and their Judaism in Europe.”
From the splendid Great Synagogue of Budapest to the Venetian synagogues with their majestic exuberance, from the [synagogues] of London and Amsterdam to La Victoire of Paris, from the almost hidden sanctuaries to the monuments with their exceptional aura, it is the fascinating history of the Jewish people that can be read through these dwellings where the divine presence resides.
As I have travelled throughout Europe, I have captured these palaces, each reflecting its own cultural influences and spiritual quests. Ancestral or more modern, they all share the wonder that they arouse in all those who admire them.
By emphasizing the colors, lights and finery of all these synagogues, it is their ambiences that appear and their atmospheres that are transmitted. The texts that accompany these photographs tell the story of the communities but also of the construction of the temples and the choice of the architect with his style, creativity and vision.
Studije o arhitekturi sinagoga u Hrvatskoj – Odabrani tekstovi / Studies on the Architecture of Synagogues in Croatia – Selected papers
By Zlatko Karač
(In Croatian with an extensive English summary)
AF Zagreb/UPI2M BOOKS
228 pages, ISBN: 978-953-7703-41-7
Most synagogues in Croatia were destroyed during or after World War II, and Karač’s work has been key in researching a little-known topic.
The text is complemented by some 350 illustrations — photographs, drawings, facsimiles of documents.
- Synagogues as heritage – History and memory;
- Elements of synagogue architecture;
- Selected examples of synagogues
There’s also a glossary of Jewish terms and an extensive bibliography and index.
A description of the book states:
The final selection of papers, a variety of publications – from chapters in books, to articles in magazines, newspapers and proceedings, symposium announcements, TV scripts, leaflets with public lectures, to exhibition catalogs and calendars, show not only the thematic breadth of the problem. but also his effort to bring the insufficiently known heritage of the synagogue closer to the widest possible circle of readers in various ways.
Synagogues are undoubtedly the least researched and almost unknown segment of our architectural and artistic heritage, almost completely destroyed in the Holocaust pogrom, but also later during the post-war period. Therefore, the research of the history and architectural features of this group of buildings is a task of special scientific value, and at the same time important for the affirmation of multicultural and multiconfessional topics related to Croatian territory.
In anticipation of the repeatedly announced international architectural competition for the synagogue and the Jewish Cultural Center in Praška ul. in Zagreb, the author wanted to offer a useful and practical manual to the profession with this book.