The auction of the Great Synagogue of Slonim in Belarus last week yielded no bidders, despite interest from Jewish heritage organisations.
A majestic baroque structure that has overlooked Slonim’s central market since the 1640s, the synagogue has been heralded as having “tremendous significance as testimony to the centuries-old Jewish life and contribution in the region”.
Architectural consultants at the Belarusian Voluntary Society for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments are undertaking studies on behalf of the UK-based Foundation for Jewish Heritage, which is monitoring proceedings.
The foundation said it had been working with local partners on the synagogue’s preservation but has not yet formalised any intent to purchase the building, which needs extensive repair work.
Its chief executive, Michael Mail, said he “expects the synagogue will go to auction again later in the year” when he hoped to offer “a compelling vision for its restoration”.
Mail added that preserving the building would require “substantial fundraising”, adding that the foundation was “keen to involve those with family connections to Slonim and the region”.
Simon Kaplinsky, chair of the foundation’s steering committee, said: “This important site… has potential to contribute to cross-community understanding and bring economic benefits to Slonim as a tourist attraction.”