The Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania is selling the synagogue in Săveni, not far from Botoşani in the northeast part of the country.
According to the Gazeta de Botoşani, the building is in an advanced state of decay and the Jewish community cannot afford to maintain or repair it. Only two Jews live today in the town — according to JewishGen Kehillalinks, nearly 1,800 lived there in 1930. (On his blog, Edgar Hauster, who recently visited Săveni, said he was told that even these last two Jews are gone — one died and one emigrated.) The synagogue, a simple structure with a fanciful cupola, is believed to have been built around 1900, or at least in the early 20th century.
Gazeta quotes the president of the Jewish community in Botosani, Iosif David, as saying that whoever obtains the building, it will not be permitted that it be used as a nightclub or casino or other such venue.
Another Botoşani news site, Botoşani Necenzurat, quotes a local Jew named Aronel Cojocaru as saying that without a congregation, the building is deteriorating day by day. All the interior fittings, he said, were removed and taken to Bucharest.
This has been the case in other synagogues where there are no Jewish communities any more — for example, in Gura Humorului. About 400,000 Romanian Jews survived the Holocaust, but almost all emigrated to Israel over the course of the next decades.
The challenges of dealing with Romania’s Jewish heritage were presented by FEDROM’s Lucia Apostol at the conference on Managing Jewish Immovable Heritage in Krakow in April. We have posted the video and full power point of her talk.
The Bratislava Statement, which offers best practice guidelines for preserving Jewish heritage, recognizes that “proper care of these properties; often involving substantial costs, difficult planning and use issues, and demanding historical and architectural preservation concerns, have preoccupied many Jewish communities for years. In many cases, and especially for smaller Communities, the needs of these properties continue to stretch professional and financial resources. Everyday community needs often delay or prevent the attention that properties require.”
Regarding synagogues, it notes that “Synagogue and former synagogues should retain a Jewish identity and or use whenever possible, though each one does not necessarily need to be restored or fully renovated. Former synagogues, no matter what their present ownership or use, should be sensitively marked to identify their past history.”
So we hope that, whoever purchases the Săveni synagogue, the building will be marked with a plaque denoting its history and original use.