As the latest of a number of Jewish heritage projects coordinated by the Vercelli Jewish community in recent years, a 400-year-old wooden Aron Kodesh (Torah scroll ark) has been fully restored and will be installed in a prominent place in the city's grand synagogue, the Jewish Heritage Europe website reported.
The Moorish-style synagogue, built in the northwest Italian city in 1878, is currently closed because of COVID-19 restrictions. The Vercelli Jewish community hopes to hold an inauguration of the ark in May or June.
The Ark showed significant damage suffered over the centuries, and was stored for a long time in the synagogue waiting for its restoration.
The €50,000 restoration of the ark was funded by three bank foundations: Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Vercelli and Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Torino and the Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo.
“In the year of ‘lockdowns,’ and despite the delays, the community has now taken back a precious witness of its history and culture,” the Jewish community said in a statement.
The baroque-style ark is said to date back to 1600, well before the imposition of the Vercelli ghetto in the 1720s, as a resident Jewish community had been living in the city since the early 15th century, according to the current Jewish community.
The Ark was likely used in one of the first Jewish prayer houses in the Ghetto period until 1943, according to the community.
According to the Jewish Heritage Europe statement, its decoration includes faux marble, columns and capitals, and carved vegetation motifs and geometric elements, adding that the two wooden lateral panels with golden Hebrew inscriptions were placed later, around the middle of the 18th century.
The Vercelli Jewish community has been active since the early 2000s in promoting the conservation and restoration of local Jewish heritage such as centuries-old synagogue textiles, ritual objects, and the synagogue’s stained-glass windows, thanks to the leadership of its president, Rossella Bottini Treves.
“The artifact has allowed our community to understand more about the history of Jews in Vercelli, offering tangible proof of their daily life,” she said.