AMSTERDAM (JTA) — The Jewish community of Deventer in the east of the Netherlands is protesting a Dutch-Turkish entrepreneur’s plan for transforming their former synagogue into a restaurant.
Tom Fürstenberg, chairman of Deventer’s Beth Shoshanna Jewish community, made up of several dozen members, told the regional newspaper De Stentor that it would be “scandalous” if the municipality approves developer Ayhan Sahin’s plans for the building that he bought in January, the daily newspaper reported Saturday.
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.
Fürstenberg had said in the past that he hopes that whoever buys the former synagogue will restore it so that it continues to function as a Jewish institution. Across the Netherlands, nonprofit organizations and municipalities have taken over synagogues without communities, turning them sometimes into popular museums, as in Groningen.
But Sahin recently submitted a plan to municipal authorities to transform the synagogue into an eatery – a plan that would be end of Jewish institutional life in Deventer, Fürstenberg said. He 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.
Sahin told De Stentor said his plan to turn the synagogue into a restaurant “is very interesting and one that would appeal to a lot of people from outside” 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.