As far back as 1756 there has been a Synagogue for the Jewish population in the center of Groningen, on the corner of the Gedempte Zuiderdiep and the modern day Folkingestraat. The street was, however, then known as the Volteringstraat, and shortly afterwards the Kleine Folkingestraat.
With the nineteenth century the Jewish population grew and became a more influential force in the economic life of Groningen. This led to the construction of the larger and more prominent present day Synagogue in 1906, designed by architect Tjeerd Kuipers. The Synagogue is of neo-Byzantine style with neo-Moorish elements. The interior windowsills and tiled walls show Art Nouveau influences, and the only Jewish influence in the building can be seen in the colonnades, which may well have been inspired by the Synagogue of Toledo.
After the Second World War in 1952, although unscathed by it, the Synagogue was sold and housed a laundry, which later became a dry cleaning plant, before finally becoming a church and assembly hall for the Apostolic Fellowship. It wasn’t until 1973 that the ‘StichtingFolkingestraat Synagoge’, was set up with the aim of restoring it to its former glory, which lasted from 1981-2. After this it was once again used as a synagogue, part-time.
Today the Synagogue is not only a place of Jewish worship but is also used for concerts and exhibitions. It includes a permanent exhibition on the history of the Jewish people, particularly those who were resident in Groningen, and uses the history of five prominent Jewish families in Groningen at the time.
© Alison Day
First published in the Connections magazine #10 Winter 2006