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Synagogue of Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Interior of the restored synagogue in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

The Commission obtained $26,000 for the restoration of the interior of the Zion Synagogue in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second most populous city. A contribution of half the amount was raised by Commission Member Michael Levy from the Bennett and Geraldine Lebow Foundation of Fisher Island, Florida. This donation was matched by a contribution from another donor.

Jews lived in Plovdiv in Roman times. Since at least the Byzantine era, they have maintained a continuous presence in the town. They were mostly artisans and merchants in what long was one of the main trading centers on the overland route between Europe and the Middle East. More than 5,000 Jews lived in Plovdiv before World War II. About 400 live there today.

The Sephardic synagogue is located at Tsar Kaloyan Street 13, in the remnants of a small courtyard in what was once a large Jewish quarter. Dating to the 19th century, it is one of the best-preserved examples of the so-called “Ottoman-style” synagogues in the Balkans. According to author Ruth E. Gruber, the interior is a “hidden treasure…a glorious, if run-down, burst of color.” An exquisite Venetian glass chandelier hangs from the center of the ceiling, which has a richly painted dome. All surfaces are covered in elaborate, Moorish-style, geometric designs in once-bright greens and blues. Torah scrolls are kept in the gilded Aron-ha-Kodesh.

The renovation included the replacement of the electrical system and rewiring of the chandelier, installation of a security system, and restoration of plaster and painted surfaces.

The restored synagogue is one of two Bulgarian synagogues still in use.


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President Reappoints Three Commission Members

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                                                                              October 23, 2014

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts


WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent... to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts...

  • Herbert Block – Member, Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad
  • Richard H. Weisberg – Member, Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad
  • Gary P. Zola – Member, Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad

President Obama said, “These fine public servants bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their important roles.  I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

...

Herbert Block, Appointee for Member, Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad

Herbert Block is Assistant Executive Vice-President of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a position he has held since 1999.  He was first appointed to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad in 2011.  Previously, he served as Assistant Director for Intergovernmental and Public Affairs for the New York City Independent Budget Office from 1996 to 1999, and was Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Relations at the Corporation for National and Community Service from 1994 to 1995.  Mr. Block was Assistant to the Mayor of the City of New York from 1990 to 1993 and a Special Assistant to the Manhattan Borough President from 1986 to 1989.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of the World Jewish Restitution Organization.  Mr. Block received a B.A. from Columbia University and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.

Dr. Richard H. Weisberg, Appointee for Member, Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad

Dr. Richard H. Weisberg is the Floersheimer Professor of Constitutional Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, a position he has held since 1976.  He was first appointed to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad in 2011.   Dr. Weisberg began his academic career as Assistant Professor of French and Comparative Literature at The University of Chicago in 1970 and is currently a Visiting Professor of Law.  He is the founding and current president of the Law & Humanities Institute and founding and general editor of a periodical, Law and Literature.  Dr. Weisberg is a recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation fellowships.  In 2009, he was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government for his work to provide restitution from France to victims of the wartime Vichy regime.  Dr. Weisberg received a B.A from Brandeis University, a J.D. from Columbia Law School, and a Ph.D. from Cornell University.

Dr. Gary P. Zola, Appointee for Member, Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad

Dr. Gary P. Zola is the Executive Director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.  He also serves as Professor of the American Jewish Experience at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Dr. Zola was first appointed to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad in 2011.  He is a member of the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society.  From 2002 to 2005, he was Chair of the Commission for Commemorating 350 Years of American Jewish History and from 2006 to 2010, he was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.  Dr. Zola received a B.A. from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, an M.A. from Northwestern University, and an M.A., Rabbinic Ordination, M.Phil., and Ph.D. from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.

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