Friday, August 07, 2009

Beirut synagogue restoration is underfunded

Photo: AP

Curiouser and curiouser. As workmen move in, the Lebanese Jewish Community admits that it has not raised enough money to restore the Maghen Avraham synagogue in Beirut. No overseas Jewish donors have contributed to the project either*, according to this Associated Press report:

"BEIRUT — Laborers have torn down the disintegrating roof, cleared the debris and erected scaffolding, showing Wednesday that the long delayed renovation of Lebanon's oldest and most important synagogue has finally begun.

"Beirut's imposing Magen Abraham synagogue was badly damaged during Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war and remained devastated long after the rest of the downtown was rebuilt with new shopping arcades and gleaming skyscrapers rising from tree-lined streets.

"Solidere, the giant company that has taken the lead in flattening and then rebuilding much of downtown has said it is up to each religious sect to restore their own places of worship — a tall order for a dwindling community of only 200 Jews.

"On Wednesday, about a dozen laborers worked on the building, stockpiling wood and clearing debris, stones and weeds.

"The project might take a year or so to complete depending how much money we can collect," an official of the Lebanese Jewish Community Council told The Associated Press Wednesday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the renovation, which began about 10 days ago, is estimated to cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.

Renovation was scheduled to begin in 2006, but work was put off due to turmoil in the country following the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah summer war. It was delayed further by the global financial crisis last year as potential Jewish donors overseas, who were to provide the bulk of the funds, decided to wait.

The Jewish official said the council, which cares for the remnants of Lebanon's Jewish community, does not yet have the necessary funds to complete the renovation.

"So far, no donations have come from Jewish donors overseas," he said. He added that the money to begin restoring the synagogue's roof came from the Jewish Council's own budget, while declining to elaborate on the exact amount."

Read article in full

*This is contradicted by other reports of two donors in Geneva.

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