Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Slovakia: Jewish Heritage Route Featured in Hadassah Magazine

Trencin, Slovakia.  Former synagogue, one of many on the Slovak Jewish Heritage Route. Photos: Samuel D. Gruber 2005.

Slovakia: Jewish Heritage Route

I've mentioned the Slovak Jewish Heritage route on several occasions on this blog, most recently in my remarks on Jewish heritage tourism. The brain child of Maros Borsky, the Slovak Jewish Heritage Route is an attempt to unite disparate Jewish sites in Slovakia and the better develop them for effective tourism and appropriate use.

The route is featured in detail in a new article by Ruth Ellen Gruber in Hadassah Magazine.  

 You can read the article here.

Germany: More Medieval Gravestones Discovered in Erfurt

mittelalterliche Kartenzeichnung zum friedhof, mit Häusern und Bäumen
Erfurt, Germany. Early view showing area of former Jewish cemetery. Source:

Germany: More Medieval Gravestones Discovered in Erfurt

One February 9, 2013, the Thüringische Landeszeitung (click for photo) reported that more medieval gravestones have been discovered in the German town of Erfurt, where the city has already preserved its medieval synagogue and mikveh.  Twenty fragments of medieval matzevot, dating from the thirteenth through the fifteenth century, were discovered at a construction site between Andreas Road, Great Ackerhofgasse (formerly the site of the Moritz Gate) and Moritzstraße, near the cemetery site. 

This brings to 58 the number of stones, originality from the medieval cemetery, that have now been rediscovered.  Three of gravestones are presently on view in the Old Synagogue. The new  pieces, apparently carved from a high-quality sandstone so that their inscriptions are still legible, have been taken for study to the Angermuseum.  Art historian Mary Stürzebecher, the Unesco Bauftragte for the city has been examining the stones with archaeologist Karin Sczech by the State Office of Historic Monuments and Archaeology. 

The oldest stone can be dated to 1259 when it was erected in meomry of for “(wife) Dolze, daughter of Mr Asher”.

The Jewish population was expelled from Erfurt in 1453 and the cemetery was subsequently abandoned.  Stones were removed and used for building material.  Eventually a communal barn and grain depot were built on the site.

Erfurt is presently hoping to have its medieval Jewish heritage listed as a UNESCO World Heritage, and the discovery of the gravestones may help this claim. The UNESCO application is a common one in collaboration with the cities of Mainz, Worms and Speyer, where the Jewish history is more widely known  having been celebrated continuously for centuries - except during the Nazi period.   Only one UNESCO site per country can be named in any given year.

 File:Alte Synagoge Erfurt.JPG
Erfurt, Germany. Old Synagogue. Photo: Michael Sander2009 (Wikimedia Commons)

Included in the UNESCO nomination are the Old Jewish Synagogue, known in the 1920s (Krautheimer wrote about it) but only re-identified in 1992.  It dates from the eleventh century, and was damaged and then subsequently reused after pogroms of 1349. 

The synagogue stood in  the center of the historical old quarter very close to the Merchants Bridge and the town hall.   Original building parts include the four thick outer walls, the Roman­esque narrow arched windows, the Gothic rose window and the entrance to the main prayer room. Converted into a museum in 2009, it includes a ground floor exhibition the tells the story of the building and its many uses over the centuries.  

 File:DPAG 2010 13 Jüdischer Hochzeitsring Erfurt.jpg

Most impressive, however, is the magnificent Erfurt Treasure is on display in the synagogue-museum basement.  The treasure, found by accident in 1998, is believed to have been hidden in a nearby medieval cellar during the 1349 pogrom and never retrieved. The largest part of the 28-kilogram hoard consists of 3141 silver coins and 14 silver ingots of various sizes. More important though are the 700 individual pieces of Gothic jewelry, including a golden Jewish wedding ring from the early fourteenth century which was featured on a German stamp soon after its discovery.  The collection, which was exhibited at the Yeshiva University Museum in New York in 2008-2009, also includes brooches, belt buckles, trimming for robes and dresses plus silver dishes and cups.

Click here for more on the Jewish sites in Erfurt

Click here for information on visiting the Jewish sites in Erfurt, and more about other attraction in the town.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Developing Jewish Heritage Sites for Jewish Heritage Tourism

Brussels, Belgium. Visitors to main synagogue listening to a tour guide. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2005

Bratislava, Slovakia. Visitors recite prayers at Hatam Sofer cemetery. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2009

Developing Jewish Heritage Sites for Jewish Heritage Tourism
by Samuel D. Gruber

In my last post I described how the Routes of Sefarad  has expanded its web presence by using Google applications to present a wide array of Jewish heritage sites in Spain, and to put them in a broader heritage context meant to encourage tourism. Tourism to Jewish heritage sites has always been of great concern to those intent on protecting and preserving historic sites - former Jewish quarters and synagogues, or cemeteries and Holocaust-related sites.  Most money for the restoration and maintenance of these sites still comes from governments, and even the most altruistic government officials would like to see positive economic development - as well as religious and culture dialog - stem form these efforts.  

A number of recent reports show that visitation to Jewish sites remains high, especially to museums in major cities, and also to sites that only open occasionally, such on the annual European Day of Jewish Culture.

Florence, Italy. Visitors explore the old Jewish cemetery on Day of Jewish Culture. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2003.

Jewish museums, especially those in already well-visited places – continue to be among the most popular culture destinations in all of Europe. Last year Spain’s Sephardic Museum, in Toledo, attracted more visitors than any other state-run museum according to a report released by the Culture Ministry. The museum, housed in the historic Samuel Ha-Levi synagogue was visited by 295,889 people during the year. High numbers of visitors also continue for the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam and the Jewish Museum in Prague, both of which are strategically located, and are comprised of historic and contemporary exhibits housed in former synagogues. The Jewish Museum in Berlin anchored by the still popular Daniel Libeskind-designed wing, also attracts large crowds.

Amsterdam, Holland. Visitors explore exhibits at the Jewish Historical Museum. photos: Samuel D. Gruber 2006.

Amsterdam, Holland. Visitors watch video exhibits at the Jewish Historical Museum. photos: Samuel D. Gruber 2006.

It is not clear how the attraction of these central well-funded museums affects other sites throughout those countries, but one assumes that the attendance at the museums - mostly by non-Jews (both observant and non-professing Christians) at least raises awareness about Jewish religion and culture so there is greater interest and acceptance about other places. Tracking visitors at smaller sites is less regular.  Though one can count those who pay admission and enter those sites that serve as museums, many people come to former synagogues for whatever everyday purpose they may now serve, or for special events, and others only view the buildings from the outside.  Despite discussion among professionals for many years, there has not been to my knowledge much effort to systematically count the visitors to Jewish sites - nor to understand who they are, where they come form and why they are interested in a particular place, or in more general aspects of Judaism and Jeiwsh culture.  can we expect that a one time visitor to one Jewish site will want to visit others?  We just don't know.

Brussels, Belgium. Tour of the Jewish cemetery. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2005
In the past, the incentive of tourism – and tourist euros, pounds, or dollars – was always part of the enticement to engage municipalities to support, and even sponsor, Jewish heritage projects. If issues of cultural diversity, historical accuracy, human rights, and religious freedom were not potent enough arguments politically to persuade governments to commit – then the economic argument about the potential benefits of Jewish heritage preservation could make the case. Of course, the danger has always been over-promising. Many good people have invested in Jewish projects and then expected the tour buses to role in – and they did not – or when they did, the rolled out just as fast without spending money in the local community.  It is certainly not true that “if you build it – or restore it – they will come.” Tourism depends on much more than that. It requires organization, promotion, and adequate infrastructure, as well as providing a rewarding experience – however that might be defined.

L'viv, Ukraine. Cultural heritage experts on tour of Golden Rose Synagogue ruin. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2008.
The primary use of any cultural heritage site should ideally be by the local population. When a synagogue is still a synagogue, this is not a problem.  But when it has been re-purposed, then it is always a challenge to have it regularly used.  A synagogue that is a town library gets good foot traffic - and well behaved, generally appreciative users.  A synagogue that is a concert hall, on the other hand, may only be used once a month.  Programming should be developed to encouraged to regular use, and return use. Whether the building has a new static function such as a library or a museum, or is a venue for changing programs  such as exhibits, concerts, lectures and public meetings, these should be targeted to local audiences so that the building – and its future – are integrated into the community. 

Outsiders - that is, tourists - should also be welcome.  They can add a new dimension, and also elevate a site's status locally.  If they are come often they may improve services and informational offerings, and their presence and interest may stimulate new funding support. But not all Jewish heritage sites, especially cemeteries and small synagogues (or any type of cultural heritage site) can appeal to a large international audience, nor should they.  Location can often discourage visitors no matter how important the history.

Nor can many heritage sites stand alone. To become real destinations instead of just toilet stops, most Jewish sites, like all heritage sites (museums, castles, churches, palaces, and the like) need to be part of larger groupings of sites and activities. Within a town, Jewish sites need to be promoted as part of the larger town heritage, and as one of the many inter-related cultural offerings. A Jewish site alone may hold a visitor for an hour. A Jewish site linked to others, can hold a visitor for a day or more.

Rural sites must compete with urban areas that can offer many more experiences. Small town sites must compete with many other places that are – at least to the stranger – seemingly similar. And when it comes to tourism, attracting Jewish visitors is not enough. There just are not that many Jews.  For out of the way places, it may be best to limit visitors to certain days.  These can save money, but more important be compressing the visitation schedule it may attract more visitors at any given time.  A compressed schedule combined with good programming can help create an anticipation - an real event - allowing a usually out-of-the-way place to become, at least for awhile, a real destination.

Samorin, Slovakia.  Tour group visit former synagogue, now art center. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2009
Alternatively, stand alone Jewish sites need to be linked in networks Jewish or otherwise. This allows administration, staffing and promotion to be shared. In the 1990s we saw Jewish heritage routes developed in Alsace and Spain, but in the last decade we have begun to see some effective networks here in Poland, in Slovakia, and in the Czech Republic, and we will hear more about both these efforts at this conference. Of course these can all do more, the challenges are great. But coordinated planning – even of planned variety – is a critical step for sustained preservation. 

Stupava, Slovakia.  Jewish heritage route marker on former synagogue. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2009.
Stupava, Slovakia.  Visitors in the former synagogue. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2009.
Once sites are restored – usually the result of an exceptional effort with exceptional one-time capital funding - the financial support for these efforts needs to be varied. Admission can be charged, and donations (especially from Jewish visitors) solicited. But more needs to be done. Government cultural agencies and private foundation will be encouraged to support operations when costs are efficiently shared. A single administrator can care for many sites, and single programmer can arrange events for a whole network of venues. Partnerships with international Jewish communities, Federations or individual synagogues or museums should also be explored. There is a long tradition of this sort of pairing and assistance, though its seems much diminished in recent years – perhaps in favor of the greater reach of web presence, social networking and the promise of wider internet outreach and fund raising.

For those of us who spend so much of our lives immersed in the business of Jewish heritage, we start to think that perhaps we are overdoing it. How many restored synagogues or Jewish museums does the world really need? But in fact, compared to all cultural heritage sites, the number of accessible Jewish ones remains extraordinarily small. 

 Prague, Czech Republic. Tourist line up outside Pinkus Synagogue. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2004

Rome, Italy.  Visitors at the Jewish Museum. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2004

The opportunity to visit a Jewish site and learn something of Jewish history, religion and culture is, for most people, still a rare opportunity. There are many more art and science museums, churches and palaces, parks and nature centers, and many other types of destinations. Jewish heritage is what we call a “niche” attraction. What it loses in popularity because it is not well-known and mainstream it can gain for exactly those same reasons.But it is important that when visitors come because a place is different or even exotic, they leave knowing more about Judaism and Jewishness.

I've been tracking the fate of Jewish heritage sites for more than twenty years.  Looking back, the results, when they can be calculated, are quite impressive. The ultimate purpose of the protection and preservation of Jewish heritage sites should not be to create tourist centers; we are not in the entertainment business.  Still, the success of of any preservation project - its initial support and funding, and its long term use and maintenance - may often depend on the amount of sustained interest it can attract. When planned wisely, Jewish communities, organizations and educators can tourists' interest to teach and inspire.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spain: Armchair Travelers Can Roam the Routes of Sefarad Thanks to Google

Jaén, Spain. The chapel of San Andrés is founded on the site of the old synagogue. Photo and information (with associated timeline and map) from the new routes of  Sefarad website (The Jewry of Jaén)

Spain: Armchair Travelers Can Roam the Routes of Sefarad Thanks to Google
 by Samuel D. Gruber 

(ISJM) Routes of Sefarad  has created an online interactive multimedia experience to assist viewers in easily discovering Sephardi heritage.  Jewish quarters and their related sites throughout Spain are mapped and made available with photos, information and details for visitors. This can serve the armchair traveler, but is also designed to help visitors, students and researchers planning a go or already in Spain to plot trips, or to easier find Jewish sites in many places they might visit for other reasons.  The information is available in Spanish and English.

Using technology provided by Google, the website allows the visitor to access maps, timelines and a large amount of historical information.   The project is available at the website of the Network of Spanish Jewish QuartersAccording to organizers, the technology supplied by Google enables the organization  of "523 sites, 910 chronological entries, 1.667 images, 67 informative texts and 138 comments in lexical voices.... spanning from the 3rd century till today."  I've only browsed a few of the entries but have discovered much new (to me anyway) material.  Here, for example, is the section of
JaénObviously, there are bigger sections for the better known and documented centers such as Toledo, Girona and Barcelona.

The website is very rich and rewarding to explore - and a much easier way to find information about historic Jewish sites in Spain then previously available.  But while the material is extensive, it is not complete With new sites identified every year through documentary research or archeology the site can keep expanding. Lorca, for instance, with its excavated synagogue and Jewish quarter and extraordinary display of reconstructed synagogue lamps, is not included.  I expect it will expand over time.  

Similarly, the site does not link to the many research publications (mostly in Spanish) now online that address historical, archaeological and preservation issues about Jewish heritage in Spain.  But this online travel guide is a welcome addition.  I may still use a few of my old guides and references in association with the site - but this will be my first go-to place for Jewish Spain.

Some of this same type of information for other countries has been available for many years at other sites, notably the in-depth information about Jewish sites in Holland provided by the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, which also uses Google maps but remains fairly hidden deep in the museum's website. In other countries (England, the Czech Republic) researchers have compiled comparable information, but this is available in complete from only in published books.  

The Spanish (and Dutch) solution may not work for every country, but it is a model to be tried. In Spain, the remains trace of culture that was suppressed five hundred years ago, and what is shown on the web does not, for the most part concern the new and small, but quite active Jewish community. The routes of Sefarad is mostly an historic exercise geared for informed tourism.  In other countries where the Jewish presence - and suffering - is more recent and security issues more immediate such web-based easy access to Jewish sites is still often resisted. There is, of course, of middle way. Web tourism sites can easily promote historic resources and museums, but there is no need to indicate the precise locations of active synagogues, schools, offices and other community institutions.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Syria: Fate of Jobar Synagogue and Other Jewish Sites Uncertain - But Don't Rush to Conclusions

Damascus, Syria. Views of the Jobar synagogue from the World Monuments Fund-sponsored survey. Photos: Robert Lyons / World Monument Fund (1995).

Syria: Fate of Jobar Synagogues and Other Jewish Site Uncertain - But Don't Rush to Conclusions
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) On April 1, 2013 Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that "the 2,000-year-old Jobar Synagogue in the Syrian capital of Damascus was looted and burned to the ground."   More recently, on April 9, Adam Blitz reported - also in Haaretz - that the destruction of the synagogue may be exaggerated, and cautioned against assuming the worst in a situation where the destruction of monuments - or reporting of their destruction - has been used increasingly by both sides in the conflict as part of the propaganda war that has accompanied the actual shooting and bombing conflict.  

Though I have no special information about the situation in Syria, I would agree with Blitz.   I remember well reports of the destruction of the Dubrovnik synagogue, when that city was shelled in the 1990s, and I have combated other (false) rumors about the real or pending destruction of Jewish site over the years.  Still, we should be worried.  The historic Jobar synagogue stands outside of downtown Damascus and one can easily imagine shelling and fighting near the site, none of the photos of videos posted on line by either side show evidence of dramatic destruction - only some seemingly minor damage.

 According to the Haaretz April 1st article:
the Syrian army loyal to President Bashar Assad and rebel forces are blaming each other for the destruction of the historic synagogue, according to reports on Sunday.

The synagogue is said to be built on the site where the prophet Elijah anointed his successor, Elisha, as a prophet. It had been damaged earlier this month by mortars reportedly fired by Syrian government forces..  The rebels said the Syrian government looted the synagogue before burning it to the ground, Israel Radio reported Sunday.
The government said the rebels burned the synagogue and that so-called Zionist agents stole its historic religious items in an operation that had been planned for several weeks.
But according to Blitz:
Syria's synagogues are now a battlefield for misinformation and half-truths by both the Assad regime and its opponents, with YouTube videos purporting to show plundered synagogues and blame thrown at both sides.  I simply do not believe that in the case of the Jobar synagogue the destruction has been as total as that put forward by these heavily edited and politically-engaged 'reports'. It is clear that several weeks ago the synagogue’s exterior was shelled, but it seems equally clear that the resulting press coverage has not differentiated between the exterior and the prayer hall across the courtyard. 
What I do know is that the most recent videos in this media onslaught are composite pieces of propaganda. At a time when coverage of Syria’s war is mediated by soldiers, outsiders and the protégés of various warring factions, the free press should not be so quick to respond to online claims made by interested parties. 
This virtual world often consists of hearsay and at other times mere subterfuge; the Syrian reciprocal blame game operates for every site that is reported damaged, and terms like "burned" or "destroyed" are standard phrases on both sides.  To the long list of the casualties of this most brutal war, it's clear that the first victim, as always, is the truth.
One of the videos mentioned by Blitz and  posted by supporters of the Assad regime show the synagogue and denounce its looting and shelling (by "NATO sponsored Al Qaeda FSA terrorists"), but despite one obvious mortar shell hole and some associated rubble, the building seems remarkably intact, and almost all the fittings and furnishing documented there by Robert Lyons for the World Monuments fund in 1995 seems to be intact.  The Torah cases (tiks) are empty - but these merely suggest that the small Jewish community has removed the precious scrolls elsewhere for safekeeping - as any community would do. We'll just have to wait and see.

Whatever has happened at the Jobar synagogue, it drives home the fact that when the fighting stops and whatever government rules Syria - plans and action will be needed to care for the Jewish monuments, and to transition to some sort of pubic control of these historic religious sites in a country where already few Jews still reside, and even fewer may stay through the fighting and any eventual peace to come.  We have learned form other countries in the region that threats to Jewish sites can be as great or greater after the peace as during the fighting.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

India: Mumbai Synagogue Glass to Be Restored

Mumbai, India. Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue. Stained glass windows. Photo: Mark Weber/WMF (2009)

India: Mumbai Synagogue Glass to Be Restored

 The World Monuments Fund (WMF) has officially launched a stained glass conservation project at Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in Mumbai, India. The 19th-century stained glass windows were designed by John Hardman Trading Co., Ltd. and, according to WMF, are  among the most beautiful in all of Mumbai. Conservators will address the buildup of particulate matter on the glass panels, cracks, lead fatigue, rust on the saddle bars, and other worn-out materials. New waterproofing and protective methods will also be utilized to ensure longevity of these very significant panels. 

For a good look at the synagogue interior visit SYNAGOGUES360

Synagogues360 has recently add views of four other Mumbai synagogues, too. 

In 2010, WMF funded comprehensive conservation planning for Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue. The conservation plan addresses structural and architectural integrity as well as the restoration of historic finishes and stained glass.  Built in 1884 and designed by Bombay architects Gostling and Morris, the synagogue was paid for by the Sassoon family, which contributed to the construction of large synagogues throughout the Asian territories of the British Empire where they were active as bankers and traders.  There are other synagogues in Mumbia, but Keneseth Eliyahoo is the oldest Sephardi synagogue in the city.

The Following information comes from WMF:
[The synagogue] was built in the Classical Revival style and originally had Minton tile floors imported from Stoke-on-Trent in England. The synagogue’s decorative interiors featured Victorian stained glass windows and rich Burma Teak wood furnishings and staircase. 

The synagogue is cared for by the Jewish community, which has diminished in recent years, leaving the synagogue without sufficient funds for conservation. The synagogue is in need of comprehensive treatment as water infiltration has damaged the roof, ceiling, and wall surfaces. The stained glass panels must be cleaned and restored, and the windows, timber balconies, and staircases require careful restoration.

The Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue continues to be used as a synagogue and is the center of Jewish cultural and religious life in Mumbai. The building contains unique features that draw on the various cultural forces in Mumbai in the 19th century, combining Jewish traditions with Indian and English colonial influences.

Here is part of a more detailed description of the synagogue from Synagogues360

The finely detailed Victorian façade features stone below and brick above and is painted a spectacular sky-blue color, offset with white molding. Inside, the massive prayer room features sky blue walls with white detailing, with a white ceiling boasting sky blue detailing. Arched windows flank the side-walls and the women’s gallery surrounds the sanctuary’s side and back walls, boasting Victorian paneling in sky blue and white, with dark wood hand-railing.  The gallery is supported by elegant, spiraled columns with Corinthian capitals reaching from the ceiling to the floor. Intricate and beautifully worked supports and Victorian detailing is evident throughout the sanctuary.  The bema is in the center of the prayer room, featuring a wood floor, and is surrounded by a white balustrade with dark wood hand railing. The tivah (reader’s desk) is placed inside and a chandelier drops from the ceiling above the bema. Against the west wall, in a huge arched inset, is the Aron Kodesh flanked by carved marble pillars, up a few steps on a small platform. It is comprised of panels of sky blue and white. Torah scrolls are encased in silver, hidden behind the drawn Torah curtain.  Magnificent arched and round stained glass windows rise above the Aron Kodesh, within the arched inset. Above the inset are two tablets, with The Ten Commandments inscribed upon them in Hebrew. Wood pews sit on Victorian tiled flooring. 
The Mumbai project is not the first time WMF has assisted an Indian synagogue.  In the 1990s the preservation organization prepared a preservation plan for the Pardesi Synagogue in Cochin, and assisted in the conservation of that synagogue's famous clock tower. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

USA: The Past Becoming The Future: Repurposed Historic Sites on the Lower East Side

New York, NY. The former Forward building, seen from Seward Park. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2005

Tour of Lower East Side "Re-purposed" Buildings

(ISJM) Following the large interest in and support for the landmark designation and preservation of the former Bialystoker Home on East Broadway on New York City's Lower East Side, The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy (LESJC) is offering a tour to visit the area's two other important secular Jewish towers central to the lives of the Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrant community of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

LESJC will offer a tour of the Jarmulowsky Bank and the Yiddish Daily Forward Building. The bank was founded by immigrant financier Sender Jarmulowsky and notorious for the hope it inspired in the community and despair it created when its closed its doors (and depositors lost their money) in 1917.  The imposing 12-story Beaux-Arts building, a designated New York City landmark designed by Jewish architects Rouse & Goldstone in 1911, was sold for $36 million in 2012 and is now  being transformed into a boutique hotel. 

Rouse & Goldstone was one several successful architectural firms in the city in the first quarter of the 20th century with Jewish principals.  Most of these firms specialized in apartment houses and commercial structures and worked closely with a real estate developers.  Information on firm can be found at David Lubell's blog Prewar Passion: The Quest for the Perfect New York Apartment.

 Here is an excerpt:

[William L.] Rouse and [Lafayette A.] Goldstone formed their partnership in 1909, and their collaborations demonstrate a facility in adapting the architectural vocabulary of the Renaissance to tall-building forms. These buildings, all designed in the Renaissance Revival or neo-Renaissance style, include the thirteen-story Riviera at 790 Riverside Drive (1909-11), which was one of the largest apartment houses in New York at the time of its completion; the twelve-story Montana Apartments (1912, but since demolished) on Park Avenue; and the nine-story apartment house at 43-47 East 62nd Street (1914-15), which earned the firm a Gold Medal from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In 1924, the firm received one of its most prominent commissions, for the apartment house at 1107 Fifth Avenue. 1107 Fifth was designed and built for Marjorie Merriweather Post Hutton, whose townhouse formerly stood on the site. Her personal apartment occupied the top three floors of the building, and was one of the largest apartments ever built in New York. Although Rouse & Goldstone is best remembered for its opulent apartment houses, the firm designed other types of buildings, including lofts, theaters, hotels, and several country houses on Long Island. The S. Jarmulowsky Bank Building is among the firm’s finest commercial buildings, along with the Hampton Shops Building (1915) which was designed in the neo-Gothic style to harmonize with St. Patrick’s Cathedral across East 50th Street.
Rouse and Goldstone dissolved their partnership at the end of 1926. Rouse remained active until 1939, and Goldstone continued to practice until the late 1940s. Both continued to make valuable contributions after the dissolution of their partnership.
New York, NY. The former Forward Building.  Facade detail. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2005

The Daily Forward Building was built in 1912 and for decades, home to the most popular and influential Yiddish daily, this magnificent landmark was converted to high end condominiums.  The tour will also visit the former P.S. 12 (1908) - designed by prolific school architect Charles B.K. Snyder.

Sunday, April 21, 2013      10:45 AM 
The LESJC is thrilled to offer this unique tour, featuring visits to three historic buildings whose adaptive reuse has ensured their relevance in today's LES landscape:

Jarmulowsky Bank (1911): Founded by immigrant financier Sender Jarmulowsky, this imposing Beaux-Arts edifice is being transformed into a boutique hotel;

The Yiddish Daily Forward Building, (1912) For decades, home to the most popular and influential Yiddish daily, this magnificent landmark was converted to high end condominiums;

P.S. 12 (1908) - Designed by famous school architect Charles B.K. Snyder, this classic structure on Madison Street has been transformed to a luxury residential dwelling called The Madison-Jackson.

Michael Bolla, a Managing Director of Douglas Elliman. with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the Manhattan real estate and development industries, has amassed an impressive portfolio of buildings in Soho, Tribeca, Lower East Side, Chelsea, and the Upper East Side. Having created an unparalleled network of talent specializing in everything related to Manhattan Real Estate, Mr. Bolla is frequently referred to as a "brilliant strategic analyst" by his clients. We are thrilled to have him share his expertise of these 3 unique spaces on this very special tour. Please read more about Michael at to browse his portfolio of architectural design work, as well as a list of numerous clients and buildings that he has represented.

Time: 10:45 AM

Meeting Place: The LESJC Kling & Niman Family Visitor Center 400 Grand Street (between Clinton & Suffolk Streets)

Fees/Info: Adults: $18; seniors and students: $16
($2 additional day of tour)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cape Verde: Cemetery to be Rededicated May, 2, 2013

Jewish burial plot within the Varzea cemetery in Praia, before and after restoration. Photo: CVJHP

Cape Verde Cemetery to be Rededicated May 2, 2013

The Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project (CVJHP) is coordinating an international delegation to rededicate the recently restored Jewish cemetery in Praia, Cape Verde. The Municipality of Praia renovated the burial site with financing from CVJHP. 

The ceremony is scheduledfor May 2, 2013. According to the organizers, dignitaries from Morocco, Gibraltar, Portugal and the US will be attending the event.

The Jewish history of the islands are summarized here, from the CVJHP website:
The Republic of Cape Verde is an archipelago of 10 islands about 300 miles off the coast of Senegal, West Africa. As a result of over 500 years of Portuguese colonial rule, Cape Verde is predominantly Catholic. However, beginning with the period of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition through the late 19th century, Cape Verde received Jews fleeing religious persecution or seeking greater economic stability.

The Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project is mainly concerned with the second wave of Jewish immigration that occurred for primarily economic reasons in the late 1800′s from Morocco and Gibraltar. We know from the Hebrew and Portuguese etchings on the tombstones in the small Jewish cemeteries which dot several islands that the majority came from the Moroccan cities of Tangier, Rabat, and Mogador (now Essaouira) bearing distinctive Sephardic names such as Cohen, Levy, Benoliel, Benrós, Wahnon, Benathar, Benchimol, Brigham, Auday, Anahory, Pinto, Maman, and Seruya.
These families landed primarily on the islands of Santo Antao, Sao Vicente, Boa Vista, and Sao Tiago and engaged in international commerce, shipping, administration, and other trades. The Jews lived, worked, and prospered in Cape Verde. However, because their numbers were few relative to the larger Catholic population, widespread intermarriage occurred. As a result of this assimilation, Cape Verde today has virtually no practicing Jews. Yet, descendants of these families, whether in Cape Verde, the United States, Portugal or Canada, speak with pride of their Jewish ancestry. They wish to honor the memory of their forebears by preserving the cemeteries and by documenting their legacy.

The first democratically elected prime minister of Cape Verde, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, is of Jewish descent. He is the great grandson of Isaac Wahnon and Raquel Levy Bentubo.
There are several Jewish cemeteries in the Cape Verde islands.  You can see photos here:

To learn about the history of the CVJHP, read a 2008 interview with president Carol Castiel here.

For more information, of if you wish to participate in the rededication event, please contact CVJHP at: CVJHP is urging all descendants of Jews living in Cape Verde to participate and welcome those in Lisbon, the US and elsewhere to join in "revivendo a historia e preservando a memoria." 

You can refer to the group's blog & Facebook Page for regular updates: and