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The Izmir Project

The Izmir Project, an international initiative led by the Kiriaty Foundation to save Izmir's unique synagogues, and create a living cultural monument to the rich Jewish heritage of the city.

 

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Izmir in Turkey is home to the only complex in the world of adjacent ancient synagogues constructed in a unique Sephardic architectural style dating from the 16th century.

Of the 34 synagogues built in Izmir, just 13 remain, some in poor condition or ruins, with collapsed ceilings and walls, their contents disintegrating.

Without intervention there is real danger that some of these buildings will cave in completely, leading to the subsequent loss of this extraordinary architectural heritage, forever.

 

The Seven Synagogues of the Project

The Izmir Project
Click on the names of the synagogues to view pictures
Sinyora Synagogue Etz Haim Synagogue
Al Gazi Synagogue HEVRA SYNAGOGUE
BeforeAfter
Shalom Synagogue Foresteros Synagogue
Bikur Holim Synagogue

The Izmir Project is working closely with the local Municipality and with the Jewish community to restore and reconstruct seven of Izmir's synagogues and historic community buildings, and construct a museum with a cultural center. The aim of this project, which is expected to be completed by 2016, is to turn the old Jewish quarter of Izmir into an exciting historical, cultural, educational and touristic site: a tribute to Turkish history and world monuments, and an accolade to the rich architectural legacy of the Jewish community that once flourished in Izmir.

 

Jewish Heritage Museum Restoration – Site Description

Four contiguous synagogues within Izmir's historic bazaar have been designated as the core of the restoration project: Hevra, Algazi, Signora-Giveret and the ruins of the Foresteros synagogue. Combined with two other adjacent synagogues: Etz-Hayim and Shalom, in addition the Bikur-Holim synagogue nearby; they form a unique complex of diverse Sephardic synagogue styles:

  • The Algazi and Hevra synagogues have a central bimah (the elevated platform from which the Torah is read aloud to congregants).

  • The Etz-Hayim and Signora-Giveret synagogues were originally Sephardic-style, but were transformed in the 19th century to a basilica design.

  • The central bimah of the Shalom synagogue was removed and rebuilt against a wall in the 17th century, in accordance with Italian (bipolar) synagogue design.

  • The Bikur-Holim synagogue is unusual: it has two prayer areas and two bimahs.

The entire project involves full synagogue restoration and creation of a Living Museum of Jewish Heritage and a cultural center to cover 2000 m2 of built area, and additional adjacent courtyard areas. The Living Museum of Jewish Heritage will serve as an academic center for multi-cultural research and dialogue.

 

Conservation of the Jewish Heritage Objects

The book collection consists of 2000 holy books, some of which date back to the 16th century.

Once one of the world's most vibrant Jewish communities, Izmir is now home to only 1200 Jews. The cultural legacy of the Jewish Community of Izmir is in danger of annihilation. Thousands of religious books, rare historic documents in Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish, ceremonial objects and textiles that provide important insights into the history of this once thriving community are in danger or irreversible decay. Ritual objects may change hands and disappear from the historical record if not documented and conserved.

Ancient Ritual Objects

Unique Judaica ritual objects left from the collapsed synagogues. The textile collection consists of 140 scarce pieces.

The Izmir Project, conceived of and led by the Izmir Jewish Community and the Mordechai Kiriaty Foundation, involves documentation, preservation and conservation of treasures from Izmir Jewry. The Jewish ritual objects of Izmir are not simply artistic or religious items: they tell the story of a once flourishing community now on the edge of extinction.

 

The Aim Of the Project

The Izmir Project will establish a Living Museum of Jewish Heritage as well as an academic body to operate in the restored site of the Synagogues in Izmir. This institution will conduct research, multi cultural dialogue projects with Muslims and Christians and a variety of academic/cultural/historical conferences, and will be responsible for the maintenance of the site and its contents. An important part of this stage is the restoration of the ancient synagogues and the selected artifacts to be displayed in the museum and creation of educational/tourism programs to attract visitors, Jews and non-Jews alike, to the site.

The project will lead the way for non-Jews in Muslim society to have knowledge of the Jewish culture and traditions and will diminish the rate of ignorance about them.

This will lead in turn to a better understanding and finding common base for communication between Jews and non-Jews. Promotion of this kind will be unavoidable since Jewish culture is spread among the non-Jews as rumors and gossip bringing about stereotyped images, offering the wider society a true representation of the Jewish culture will necessarily change the nature of these images and will provide a better understanding.

 

International Exhibition For Conservation

In October 2010, The Izmir Project was presented at the International Conference and Exhibition held by the International Institute for Conservation in Istanbul. The professional community from all over the world expressed great interest in the Izmir Project.

Poster of a collapsed synagogue, presented at the IIC International exhibition, October 2010
Poster of ancient ritual objects, presented at the IIC International exhibition, October 2010
Click posters to enlarge

 

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The Mordechai Kiriaty Foundation wishes you Happy Passover

For further information please contact: izmirproject1@gmail.com

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