Simnas Synagogue to Get New Life

Simno sinagogą bus bandoma prikelti naujam gyvenimui

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The Alytus regional administration will look for ways to use the synagogue located in Simnas for cultural activities. The head of the regional administration discussed the issue with representatives of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Ministry of Culture and the Cultural Heritage Department.

The synagogue was built in 1905 to replace the old wooden synagogue at the same site and was reconstructed in the mid-20th century. In 1952 it became a palace of culture, and later a school athletics gymnasium. Currently it belongs to the Alytus regional administration.

The administration has tried numerous times to revive the former Jewish house of prayer and in consultation with residents and representatives of the Simnas aldermanship has discussed to what possible use it could be adapted. Suggestions have included using the synagogue as an art gallery, a museum and a concert hall, but financing for reconstruction couldn’t be found. Several years ago the palace of culture in Simnas was renovated and a large concert hall set up inside with sufficient space for different sorts of exhibitions. Having assessed the current situation, public needs and the slight opportunities for financing the renovation of the synagogue building, the regional administration decided to privatize the property. When no objections were heard from the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the regional administration initiated privatization procedures. Opposition to the sale of the synagogue reached the administration following announcement of the sale of the building. Currently privatization has been put on hold.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky together with community representatives, Lithuanian Government Chancellory Foreign and EU Affairs Department advisors Rasita Ankudavičienė and Margarita Janušonienė, Alytus regional administration head Algirdas Vrubliauskas, deputy head Arvydas Balčiūnas, Simnas alderman Vytautas Viršilas, Simnas priest Raimundas Žukauskas and members of the local community visited the synagogue together and discussed how to put the building to public use. There was a proposal the premises could house a multicultural museum featuring Jewish, Tartar and Lithuanian items with educational cultural heritage and craft activities. Classes for high school students could be held there to teach them about their own history, culture and traditions.

The Alytus regional administration in cooperation with the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture and the Cultural Heritage Department will attempt to find funds for renovating the synagogue. Regional administration head Vrubliauskas said they will look at opportunities for funding from the 2014-2020 EU structural funds.