(JHE) — The disused 19th century synagogue in the town of Altkirch, is up for sale by the Consistoire of the Haut Rhin (CIHR), the Jewish administrative body of the Haut Rhin department in eastern France.
The synagogue officially went on sale in December. It is being offered via the Robischung real estate company at €245,000 as an “exceptional property” comprising 280 square meters and suitable for “multiple projects.”
The Consistoire says it is selling the synagogue, which was built in the 1830s and is listed as a heritage monument, because there is no longer a Jewish community in the town and the Consistoire cannot cover the maintenance and upkeep.
The sale highlights a widespread problem that affects both countries and regions (like North America and the UK) where synagogues fall vacant due to demographic shifts, and parts of Europe where they are vacant or abandoned due to the deliberate destruction of the Shoah.
“It is a remarkable building which has the advantage of being in the city centre, but it has not been used for more than 50 years, and its maintenance is very expensive for us,” Élie Cohen, president of the CIHR told the news outlet Le Parisien.
“When we decided to sell, we first contacted the town hall of Altkirch, with the idea of developing a cultural project for example. But the town let us know that it could not respond to our request. So we turned to a real estate professional,” Laurent Schilli, secretary general of the CIHR, told France3 broadcaster.
Schilli said profits from the sale “will be used to carry out work in other synagogues in the department, such as those of Thann or Guebwiller which are still active, and will also finance projects for the community of the living which for us is a priority.”
The synagogue was built in 1834-37. It was rebuilt in 1850 after suffering serious damage during antisemitic riots in 1848, a year when protests and uprisings swept parts of Europe. Transformed into a cinema in 1940 during the German occupation, it was restored and returned to Jewish use after the war. But by the 1960s, a viable Jewish community no longer existed in the town.
According the the 2013 book Les Gardiens des lieux, by Baptiste Cogitore and photographer Pascal Koenig, out of around 100 synagogues buildings in Alsace, around 40 are used for other purposes.
A photo exhibition about these places can be viewed until January 24 in the former synagogue in Muttersholtz, where Cogitore has been a writer in residence.