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Jay A. Waronker, born in Atlanta USA, was educated in architecture and architectural history at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, and Cornell University. After working with Robert A. M. Stern Architects in New York, Waronker returned to his birthplace to establish an office specializing in residential design. There he has completed a number of published and awarded projects. In addition to his practice, Waronker began teaching. He is currently on the faculty at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta in its Department of Architecture, where he was also its Chair. Waronker also served as a visiting professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, North Dakota State University, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Overseas, Waronker has taught at Duksung Women’s University in Seoul, North China University of Technology in Beijing, the University of Free State in Bloemfontein South Africa, the University of Adelaide in Australia, King Mongkut’s Thonburi University of Technology in Bangkok, and the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Waronker has for years pursued research in the field of diaspordic synagogues in areas of the world where the architecture is less studied. He was awarded grants through the Asian Cultural Council, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture to begin documenting India’s thirty-five synagogues. He returned to India through funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Graham Foundation, and Bokser Memorial Foundation, and again as a Fulbright scholar to complete detailed watercolors renderings, in the centuries-old tradition of hand drawings, and select architectural drawings of these synagogues dating from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. Waronker’s paintings have been extensively exhibited throughout the United States and abroad. He has also written extensively about India’s synagogues, including a chapter in India’s Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art, and Life-Cycle (Marg Publications) and articles in the Journal for Indo-Judaic Styles, KULANU, and Journal for Jewish Identities. For The Cambridge History of World Religious Architecture (Cambridge University Press), Waronker wrote on the synagogues of India and Myanmar.

Waronker was awarded grants through the Koret Foundation and Marian and Abraham Sofaer to initiate an effort to preserve the synagogues in Kerala of southwestern India. From this visit, Waronker founded and served as curator for India’s first Jewish museum, created a dedicated website (, and installed heritage plaques at all the region’s Jewish sites. As a result of this project, and with the support of the Koret Foundation, Waronker’s served as an advisor to the Kerala government for the restoration of a second synagogue. The former synagogue in the town of Parur is now open as a cultural site.

Waronker received a second Fulbright to being documenting the synagogues and other Jewish architecture of sub-Saharan Africa. He returned to Africa with the support of the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation to expand the project. With funding with the Cahnman Foundation, a portfolio of one hundred fifteen watercolor renderings along with written histories was completed. As a result of this effort, Waronker served as project historian and architectural consultant for the restoration of the 1926 synagogue in Maputo, Mozambique, and he advised the Igbo and Cameroon black Jewish communities on the building of a synagogue and Jewish center. Waronker has lectured widely on the synagogues of sub-Saharan Africa, including at the Siam Society in Bangkok and at the Jewish Museum in Melbourne, Australia. Waronker also collaborated with the Center for Jewish History in New York to make his work available to researchers and patrons.


Diarna synthesizes Google Earth mapping technology, scholarship, and a trove of multimedia documentation, to lend a physical presence to the Jewish communities that once thrived in such places as North Africa and the Middle East. Each site in the developing map resulting from Diarna’s work is a gateway to once vibrant yet now largely vanished communities. The traditional sources of information have been academic literature and travelers’ accounts about the region. Diarna goes one step further by providing both verbal and non-verbal unfettered virtual access that transcends time, distance, borders, and taboo. Diarna accomplishes this by first pinpointing sites, then digitally mapping them, and finally using every fragment of obtainable verifiable new media material (archival and contemporary photogrpahs, 360-immersive panoramas, video interviews and tours, and even 3-D digital reconstructions) to create a densely textured digital experience that serves as an interactive source for education, research, communication, spiritual communion, and cultural self-awareness.

In order to ensure preservation and access in perpetuity, Diarna is racing to document sites and memories as the last generation to witness Jewish life in the region is passing on. On the one hand, the primary source generation is passing on. On the other hand, there are passionate individuals who are scrambling to capture and preserve their memories. Events in the region – such as the attempted 2010 bombing of Egypt’s Adly Street Synagogue and the ban on Jewish pilgrims to Rabbi Yaakov AbuHatzera’s shrine – also illustrate the urgency of this work.

Diarna is geared toward a varied audience. It is for scholars, teachers, and members of communities who want their stories told, but its cumulative reach is much larger than that. Since Diarna’s aim is to create a map of life in the region as it was, our endeavor has a special significance to individuals from every religious and ethnic group in the region, including Arab Muslims, Kurds, “Berbers,” and others who are eagerly helping Diarna identify, map, and permanently recognize a history that is also their own.

This website was made possible with the support of the Cahnman Foundation (USA).
Additional funding came from the US Fulbright Program, Lucius N. Littauer Foundation (USA), and the Stanley Srochi Fund (USA).