Reclaiming the Ancient Synagogues of Izmir

Jul 31, 2009

Source: Jerusalem Post


In cooperation with the Turkish government, the Izmir municipality and the local Jewish community, a group of donors and academics from Israel are working to restore the largest of the collapsed synagogue complexes of the ancient Jewish community of Izmir. They hope to fashion a "living Jewish museum" on the spot that will teach the local Muslim population and the international academic community about Izmir's Jewish past.


Led by the Mordechai Kiryati Foundation, a Tel Aviv based fund for educational projects, the Izmir Project seeks to restore what is left of Izmir Jewry before the buildings are reclaimed by the city and lost to the Jewish world. It marks the first step in a larger project of cataloguing abandoned synagogues and restoring Jewish heritage sites worldwide, which is being run by the Zalman Shazar Center in Jerusalem and the Avichai Foundation.


The new project, formally titled The Izmir Project: a Journey and a Dialogue between Cultures, will focus on a cluster of five connected synagogues, with the central one having lost its roof in recent decades. This complex will be transformed into a massive museum and cultural center in collaboration with local academic institutions.


The complex will include a Jewish education center about Ladino and Sephardi Jewry in Izmir that will run activities, classes and programs, courses for history students from abroad and for academics who are researching these communities and their heritage.


The Jewish sites of Izmir have been declared an international site of cultural and archeological significance by UNESCO.


Updated: Aug. 05, 2009