The Neveh Shalome: Restoration Project
Neveh Shalome Synagogue Shines Again
The third of Kolkata’s synagogues, Neveh Shalome, has been restored to its original beauty.
If memory serves, the synagogue closed its doors sometime in the mid-80’s. During the years that followed the building became more and more shabby and decrepit, with plaster flaking from the walls, a pavement shop selling kitchen utensils blocking the entrance, and the unlit, dingy interior used without permission as storage for the shopkeeper’s goods.
The accompanying pictures show the progress of restoration, which began in December 2013.
As Secretary of the Synagogue Board, I have been in constant touch with the contractor and have kept a close eye on all that has been done. Ian Zachariah, Danny David and Elisha Twena have inspected hard-to-get-at parts of the building several times to make sure that the work was done properly, and my husband Mordy has seen to it that the contractor’s bills were accurate. Flower Silliman went with me to the local police station one memorable evening, to refute allegations made by the shopkeeper at the gate and to ask the police to come and see for themselves.
The walls have been plastered and painted, inside and out, the roof has been restored, the windows have been repaired and painted, the floor has been polished and the old bathroom behind the stairs to the women’s gallery is now clean and usable, with new fittings and running water. Flower is having the parokhets cleaned and remade, and the original chuppah stands in the women’s gallery, waiting for a new canopy. While work was in progress we found the synagogue’s rimmonim, and Neveh Shalome is now the only one of the three synagogues to remain in possession of its original rimmonim.
Every Friday evening a Shabbat lamp is lit in Neveh Shalome as well as in Maghen David and Beth-El, and the first time I lit that lamp I was nearly in tears. There is something very poignant about the bright face that Neveh Shalome now shows the world, never mind that its Sefer Torahs are scattered like its congregation. Passers-by stop to admire it, and many locals have told me that they never realized before that it was a house of worship.
Four of the five hoardings which had been allowed in front of the building have been removed, and we hope that with permission from the Court, the fifth will soon follow suit. A temporary stairway provides access from Maghen David’s courtyard – where there used to be stairs years ago – and a suit has been brought for removal of the pavement shop which is still blocking part of the main entrance.
During the High Holidays this year Neveh Shalome will be open for prayers again, taking its turn with Maghen David and Beth-El. Truly all things are possible for Hashem, and we have much to thank Him for.
Elsewhere in the community’s institutions, we have not been idle. Long-overdue repairs and painting were done in all three schools during the May-June holidays. Both the boys’ and girls’ schools have new Principals and Administrators, and the junior branch of the boys’ school has a new Teacher-in-Charge. A number of new teachers have been appointed in all three schools and an efficient back office now functions at the girls’ school, with an Accountant to deal with community matters – collection of rent from the synagogues’ tenants, maintenance of staff records and disbursement of financial assistance and medical reimbursement to those in need – and another Accountant who takes care of the schools’ accounts. An Alumni Association has been formed at the girls’ school and we expect one to be set up for the boys as well.
We have a lot of plans for the future, and hope to see both the boys’ and girls’ schools making a name for themselves in the years ahead.
12 August 2014