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The Revival: 1998 – present

Guido Robles, the visionary and devoted first president of the revived Jodensavanne Foundation (JSF), joined by some other determined individuals and ngo’s, made a fresh start in recovering the foundation in 1998. The revitalization was supported greatly by Rachel Frankel, the New York-based architect and independent scholar, who had visited the unique monuments some years before. The Foundation has undertaken many projects and directed several expeditions with the objectives to protect and promote the unique heritage of Jodensavanne and Cassipora. Since this revival, the Jodensavanne sites have been maintained regularly and weed overgrowth was consequently prevented or removed. The JSF is also actively promoting the complete Jewish heritage history in Suriname. A specific person was added to the board to coordinate public relation activities. Subsequently, documentation is sent to tourism businesses and tourism fairs, while the foundation even participated itself in a national trade fair. A website was developed and in the photo-gallery a sense is given of the completed activities. A visitor centre has been opened in Paramaribo, in collaboration with the Jewish Community of Suriname, were a small collection of archaeological finds is displayed.

Daniel Metz created a development proposal for the Monumental Area. The plan involved several stakeholders (public and private) but did not involve local community participation. A new management authority was proposed, while Metz advised to integrate the properties of Post Gelderland, Cordon Path and the “Pine Plantation” (former internment camp) in the management area. Although this plan was not executed as such, some aspects have contributed highly to policy development of the JSF.

Thanks to the efforts of Rachel Frankel, in a later stage joined by Dr. Aviva Ben-Ur, important historical interdisciplinary research has been executed. Synagogue remains, monuments and epitaphs of Cassipora and Jodensavanne have been thoroughly documented, analyzed and transcribed. These exceptional personalities’ have undertaken six expeditions between 1997 and 2002, coordinated by the JSF and assisted by many volunteers, to unravel unique aspects of Suriname’s cultural heritage. The Sephardic and Ashkenazi cemeteries in the capital city were also included in these expeditions. In their publication, Remnant Stones: the Jewish Cemeteries and Synagogue of Suriname Dr. Ben-Ur and Rachel Frankel present a comprehensive description of these expeditions, in an interdisciplinary approach. It is the first documentation of Suriname’s oldest surviving Jewish burial grounds and synagogue.

The JSF has succeeded to raise some funds and since 1998 several goals have been reached, such as:

  • Jodensavanne was placed on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage;

  • The ruins of the buildings of the 1970s were removed;

  • With support of the Henk Vos Foundation, the Embassy of the USA and the Embassy of the Netherlands and Hotel Torarica, several actions could be taken, such as

  • The construction of a new pier on the river to moor small boats (mostly tourists) has been implemented, together with the  construction of a firm concrete stair to climb “the hill";

  •  The establishment of a small and temporary information centre;

  • The installation of a chemical toilet, which was recently replaced by larger sanitary units (sponsored by ALCOA Foundation);

  • In 2001 the Jewish Heritage Program of the World Monuments Fund (WMF) granted some funds for a signage and visitor pamphlets project, providing visitors a self-guided tour;

  • The Jodensavanne Archeological Park, an open air museum, was the objective of the JSF in 2002. Funding was requested to carry out this project that focused on uncovering, landscaping and interpreting the old village area, including visitor facilities, such as trails, benches and signage.

  • The JSF developed a multi-year plan in 2006, focusing on preservation, education, research and management. In a first phase the jetty and entrance stairs were repaired;

  • The upgrading project that followed was funded by the ALCOA Foundation and aimed at reconditioning of the synagogue floorboards and the visitor center, which was rebuilt to a manager’s facility;

Jodensavanne was added to the year 2000 list of 100 most endangered monuments of the World Monument Fund. The prestigious listing accentuated the historical value and international recognition of the site, and provided a strong vehicle of public advocacy for these historical sites. The site was placed on the list, based on the following risk factors:

  • vegetation damage

  • micro-organism attack

  • possibility of looting and vandalism

  • inadequate maintenance and general neglect

A comprehensive Jodensavanne and Cassipora Management Plan was designed under guidance of the SANTOUR Foundation in 2008. This plan also integrated an agreement between the Jodensavanne Foundation and the Indigenous Village of Redi Doti, regulating the cooperation of the villagers regarding conservation and management of Jodensavanne. In 2009, the Government of Suriname declared Jodensavanne and the Cassipora Cemetery a National Monument under the Monuments Act of 2002, making them formal protected sites. In 2011 a conservation project was executed which was funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands, aiming at the restoration of the Beraha VeShalom synagogue and 13 graves in the Jodensavanne cemetery.

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