Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky has participated in the commission for the final supervisory assessment of work done to restore the synagogue in Žiežmariai, Lithuania. Work on the ground floor is now complete.
Work on the building is drawing to an end and the synagogue is set to begin hosting educational, cultural, tourist and other public activities. Following completion, it could become an important community site and tourist attraction.
Currently the synagogue is hosting an exhibit of reproductions of drawings by Dora Pilianskienė. She came from Žiežmariai and as a young Jewish woman left her hometown, but at an advanced age began drawing and painting images she cherished from Žiežmariai. Her relatives have bequeathed her works to the Žiežmariai Culture Center.
The synagogue building is an impressive and unique historical monument. Built in the mid-19th century, it is one of only fourteen surviving wooden synagogues in Lithuania. It’s a building of monumental capacity and one senses the influence of Romanticism in the architecture. The walls are made of log beams separated by vertical reinforcements covered by vertical boards and trim. The main façade on the western side is asymmetrical. It has a plethora of 18 windows for internal lighting, beyond the number required by Jewish law. It was greatly damaged by fire in 1918 but was rebuilt after that. Wooden synagogues are increasingly rare in Eastern Europe and Lithuania possibly has a monopoly on them now.
The first synagogue in Žiežmariai was built between 1690 and 1696. In the 19th century there were three synagogues operating in the small town with a majority Jewish population. Synagogues served as institutions of learning and centers of community life as well as houses of prayer.
Photo from left to right: Svaigedas Stoškus, head of Kaunas Territorial Department, Cultural Heritage Department; Vaida Babeckienė, director of administration, Kaišiadorys regional administration; Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman, LJC; Vytenis Tomkus, mayor, Kaišiadorys regional administration; Ramutė Taparauskienė, director of Strategic Planning and Investments Department, Kaišiadorys regional administration.