AMSTERDAM (JTA) — A Dutch municipality rejected a Turkish entrepreneur’s plan to transform a 125-year-old synagogue into a restaurant.
The city council of Deventer in the east of the Netherlands last week deemed the plan “inconsistent with the building’s character,” a decision which blocked the plan of developer Ayhan Sahin to turn the tall, neo-Moorish style Grand Synagogue into an eatery, Joods.nl reported. He bought the building in January.
Tom Fürstenberg, chairman of Deventer’s Beth Shoshanna Jewish community, made up of several dozen members, said he was “relieved” following the decision. In April, he had told the regional newspaper De Stentor that it would be “scandalous” if the municipality approves Sahin’s plans.
Fürstenberg had also said the plan ran contrary to agreements made with Sahin. The Jewish community had hoped to continue to be able to use the establishment for religious purposes under new ownership.
In recent years, the small Jewish community of Deventer could no longer afford to maintain the large building, which is a listed national monument. It was sold to a local church, which resold it to Sahin for an undisclosed amount, the report said.
Across the Netherlands, nonprofit organizations and municipalities have taken over synagogues in cities without Jewish communities, turning them sometimes into popular museums, as in Groningen.
In 1940, in the days following the German invasion of the Netherlands, members of the Dutch National Socialist Party ransacked the Deventer synagogue as police stood by, destroying the interior. By 1943, Deventer had no registered Jewish residents. The vast majority of them were murdered in Nazi death camps. The interior was restored after World War II.
Sahin told De Stentor that his plan to turn the synagogue into a restaurant “is very interesting and one that would appeal to a lot of people from outside” the city of Deventer. He also said he regrets hearing the local Jewish community would be without a space to worship if the plan is approved, but added he is “not the Salvation Army.” He also said he would be willing to allow the community to keep using the building if they pay “full rent” for it.
Negotiations are underway between Sahin, the city, the Jewish community and other parties for a solution which that would allow the community to continue to worship at the synagogue.