Forty years after the rededication in 1981, Synagogue Groningen has opened its new permanent exhibition. Intensive work has been done on the permanent museum layout for two years. Dozens of personal stories have been recorded in words, images, film and audio. And not just any stories. It is a sensory stimulating experience about Jewish Groningen. By means of interactive columns provided with hundreds of carefully coloured black-and-white images, activating activity stations and a large (loan) collection in collaboration with, among others, the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam and various private collections.
Anyone who now enters Synagogue Groningen will be sucked into the rich Jewish history of Groningen in a modern and contemporary way, through touch screens with digital storytelling, DIY stations, live conversations, art objects and large showcases filled with museum treasures. Synagogue Groningen is thus developing into an almost fully-fledged museum that also houses daily cultural activities and services. Historian and exhibition maker Willy van der Schuit, together with Design collective Groningen, developed the new interior that has become part of the striking monument. Liefke Knol made a number of impressive films and Bertien Minco made a special audio tour with family stories. Synagogue Groningen: respect for space and religion Synagogue Groningen is of course a place of remembrance, in addition to being a lively place for cultural activities and an educational center about Jewish religion and customs. In a historic location, where the Jewish community has been meeting since the 18th century, the synagogue tells the story of Judaism in general, but in particular of communities in the city and province of Groningen. This local aspect is expressed in stories and objects from Jewish Groningen companies such as the Polak pudding factory and the tire glue producer Simson, but also personal belongings such as prayer books and letters that testify to living together as a Jewish community in good and bad times.
In collaboration with the Oude Groninger Kerken Foundation, the owner of the building, the structural adjustment of the building has been completed in 2021. After that, the permanent museum layout has been realised, a long-cherished wish of the board. “We not only wanted to tell the story of Jewish life in the city, province and border region, but also to ensure that the rich history and the essential contribution of the Jewish resident to cultural, social and economic life is not lost. Under the motto unknown makes unloved, we hope that these stories will contribute to mutual understanding and tolerance”, says Gaby Poell, chairwoman of the Folkingestraat Synagogue Foundation.
The museum redesign of Synagogue Groningen has been made possible with financial contributions from: the Province of Groningen, the Municipality of Groningen, the Oude Groninger Kerken Foundation, the Scholten Kamminga Fund, the VSB Fund, the Vfonds, the Mondriaan Fund, the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds (national and dev. Groningen), Emmaplein Foundation and some anonymous donors.
The cross-border project 'Jewish life in the border region' was made possible by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) within the framework of the INTERREG VA programme “Deutschland-Nederland”. The Province of Groningen and the Niedersächsische Ministerium für Bundes und Europaangelegenheiten und Regionale Entwicklung have also contributed to this. The INTERREG program management at the Ems Dollard Region (EDR) supported the implementation of this project.
Photos: Marleen Annema and the Groningen Synagogue Collection.