Historical Attention to Historic Lithuanian Jewish Buildings

by Martynas Užpelkis, LJC heritage protection specialist

An historical event! In recent days, almost a coincidence of sorts but more likely the result of dedicated and constant preparation, three historical Jewish community buildings in Vilnius have been repaired and restored at the same time. In spite of the temporary convenience, our thanks go out to everyone who contributed to the preservation of these Jewish historical heritage sites.

Renovation on the synagogue on Gėlių street in Vilnius, the Zavl Germaize and David Levinson Synagogue, continues, but work has been completed on the façade and floor, and new doors and windows in line with the traditional ones were installed. The Lithuanian Jewish Community owns the building. The role of contractor for renovation work was carried out by the public sector Lietuvos Paminklai [Monuments of Lithuania] enterprise and renovation was conducted by the Nivara company. This year as in the foregoing three reconstruction work was financed by the Lithuanian state and the Goodwill Foundation. In 2017 the Cultural Heritage Department under the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture allocated 120,000 euros and the LJC contributed 16,000 euros allocated by the Goodwill Foundation.

The Choral Synagogue, aka Taharat haKodesh Synagogue, on Pylimo street in Vilnius is undergoing roof repairs, restoration of its façade and internal renovation and emergency repairs. The Vilnius Jewish Religious Community owns the building. Lietuvos Paminklai and the Statresta company are doing the repair work with financing from the Lithuanian state and Goodwill Foundation, the Cultural Heritage Department allocating 60,000 and the LJC contributing 15,000 euros allocated by the Goodwill Foundation.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community at Pylimo street no. 4 also needed emergency repairs this week because cornice mortar and plaster fragments began to fall off due to rain. The building was closed to staff and visitors for several days and part of the sidewalk was roped off to prevent injury. The decomposing plaster and mortar sections were removed and the cornice section near the roof was protected using a special net. The building belongs to the state and the management of the building belongs to the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, with a section of the building provided to the LJC under a use agreement.

The situation is the result of a lack of will by Lithuanian government institutions to solve the problem, as noted back on September 4, 2016, in an aside in our article about European Days of Jewish Culture celebrations. Emergency repairs were done by the Real Taste company. The cost of initial work was 2,640 euros but the true cost will only come to light when more work is done and will grow. A project funded by the Goodwill Foundation paid for the repair work.

Finally another source of pride in Pakruojis, Lithuania, where just a few weeks ago the restored woodened synagogue, the oldest in Lithuania, reopened. The Pakruojis wooden synagogue belongs to the Lithuanian Jewish Community who has signed an agreement with the regional administration to make public use of it.

Renovation work on the wooden synagogue in Žiežmariai continues. This is also the property of the LJC. The Kaišiadorys regional administration allocated 24,840 euros and the Cultural Heritage Department 150,000 euros for its restoration this year.

Also, good news from the town of Alytus: they allocated 30,000 euros after the Cultural Heritage Department allocated 118,000 euros for the restoration of the Alytus synagogue.

Hopefully other local Lithuanian governments will soon follow suit.