Within the Israel Museum, you can find the interiors of 3 different synagogues from other parts of the world…Italy, India and Suriname. They are each beautiful and unique and it was a treat to be able to see them last week. I appreciate the information concerning each one, which I received from the museum and I share it with you below.
The synagogue from which this interior comes stood in the small town of Vittorio Veneto near Venice. According to an inscription on the Torah ark, the synagogue was completed in December 1700. For more than two hundred years, it served a small Ashkenazi community. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Jews moved to larger centers and by the end of WW I, the synagogue was no longer in use. The original synagogue occupied the second and third stories of a simple building. This modesty was customary in Italy before the Jews were emancipated, the result of local restrictions and the Jew’s own desire to avoid drawing attention to their place of worship.
In 1965, the interior was transferred in its entirety to the Israel Museum.
Beginning in the 16th century, the Kadavumbagam (“by the side of the landing place”) synagogue stood at the edge of the Jewish neighborhood in the town of Cochin, India, apparently built over the ruins of an even earlier synagogue. Its carved wooden interior came to includer and exquisite ceiling featuring motifs like those found in the surrounding mosques and Hindu temples. According to tradition, the Jewish community of Cochin is approximately 2,000 years old.
In the early 1950s, most Cochin Jews immigrated to Israel, and the Kadavumbagam synagogue’s Torah ark was transferred to Moshav Nehalim. The interior made its way to the Israel Museum in 1991.
Founded in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, in 1736, Tzedek ve-Shalom (see photos below) is a typical example of Spanish and Portuguese synagogues in the New World. The republic of Suriname, formerly known as Dutch Guiana, is a tropical country situated on the northern coast of South America. In the mid-17th century, Jews of Spanish and Portuguese origin, who had fled to Holland during the Inquisition, were among the early European settlers in Suriname. They established sugarcane plantations along the Suriname River, o which they gave Biblical names, and founded a village in the Savanna, which they called “Jerusalem on the Riverside.”
This beautiful synagogue is a clear reflection of the character of the Jewish community of Suriname– a community that enjoyed relative freedom of worship and took an active part in the life of the surrounding society.
The plaque did not say when the interior of the Tzedek ve-Shalom synagogue came to the Israel Museum.