Thursday, April 30, 2009

Belarus: More on Demolition of Luban Synagogue

Former Synagogue Building in Luban, Belarus c. 2005.
Photos courtesy of Jewish Heritage Research Group in Belarus

Belarus: More on Demolition of Luban Synagogue

by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) Yuri Dorn, Coordinator of Jewish Heritage Research Group in Belarus, has provided more information about the on-going demolition of the former synagogue in Luban, Belarus and has provided pictures of the impressive vernacular building, and of the memorial plaque.
Demolition began last week, and as of yesterday the roof and its supporting system had been entirely removed. A vice-Mayor of Luban had informed the Research Group only a few days before of the demolition, and that "all legal procedures has been followed and all necessary permissions have been obtained." The former synagogue building will be replaced by a new large commercial structure - some sort of store.

According to Dorn, the Luban authorities did not inform Belarus Jewish community about planned demolition. He did not speculate why, but presumably they were either ignorant of the need to do so, or of any likely interest in the fate of the building, or they suspected that if word got out that their would be complaint. Based on my long experience in historic preservation I would assume the worst, and that is the reason for the rush to demolish, so that any protest will be too late.
In 2004, the Jewish Community of Belarus tried unsuccessfully to include the Luban Synagogue building on the official registry of landmarks, but was unable to do so because of insufficient archival documentation about the building's history. Presumably it was not deemed eligible on architectural grounds alone.

Mr. Dorn warns of a similar situation is beginning to develop in Ivenets (Minsk district), where one of the three last wooden synagogue buildings in Belarus is under threat. ISJM will provide more information about that situation as soon as we learn more.

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