This beautiful book, with its intricately carved wooden cover, hand-painted pages, and stunning black-and-white photographs, was created on the occasion of the dedication of the synagogue in Versailles, France, in September 1886. While it was created for the dedication, the volume’s true purpose is to honor the woman whose generosity enabled the synagogue to come into being: Cécile Furtado-Heine (1821–1896), a philanthropist who fully funded the construction. Two marble plaques located next to the synagogue’s main entrance, one in Hebrew and one in French, commemorate her munificence: “Ce temple dédié à l’Éternel a été édifié par Madame Cécile Furtado-Heine, que son nom passant de génération en génération soit béni, Septembre 1886.” Furtado-Heine’s generosity was so central to the construction of the synagogue that this inscription is rendered in a beautiful hand-painted illustration included in the dedication book.
During the synagogue’s dedication service, Grand Rabbi of Paris Zadoc Kahn spoke about the donor’s benevolence and her many charitable endeavors; the full text of his remarks is included in the book. Rabbi Kahn began by asking God for the same favor for Furtado-Heine that Nehemiah requested when he prayed: “Remember unto me, O my God, for good, all that I have done for this people.” He stated that her name belongs among the list of pious Jewish women to be remembered by history. The creator of the dedication book appeared to have agreed with this sentiment; the front cover contains text excerpted from Proverbs 31: “Many daughters have done valiantly, but thou excellest them all.”