France / Alsace


Dambach-la-Ville. Photo by Bernard Chenal – Wikipedia

The Jewish community of Dambach-la-Ville dates back to the seventeenth century and so is the synagogue which was renovated in 1850. After the community disappeared, it was donated to the town in 1947 and transformed into a theatre.

Renovation work, including the installation of an air conditioning system, led to the discovery in 2012 of a formidable treasure: a genizah (a ritual repository of writings and objects bearing the name of God, which cannot be thrown away or destroyed. They are deposited in a cache, awaiting burial in the cemetery) collecting objects and documents ranging from the late 16th century to 1894. The old pieces of paper and objects that were in the genizah are deposited in the truck and destined for the waste disposal center. The curiosity of a passerby and the involvement of historian Yvette Beck-Hardweg prevented the documents from being thrown away. The Société d’Histoire des Israélites d’Alsace et de Lorraine (SHIAL) obtained the support of the municipality and the DRAC to extract all the documents, to package them and to store them in the “Maison des Sœurs”. Nearly 900 objects were thus catalogued and restored. Among them, 250 mapoth or fragments of mapoth as well as a dozen Torah mantles and 300 books, some dating back to 1592.

The major part of this incredible collection, made up of objects, some of which are extremely rare, is on display at the Jewish Museum of Strasbourg, thanks to a donation made by the municipality of Dambach-la-ville and the involvement of its mayor, Gérard Zippert.

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