The Cultural Heritage Department of Lithuania’s Culture Ministry has placed the small, 19th century wooden synagogue at Tirkšlių on its Register of Cultural Properties.
The announcement said the Lithuanian Jewish community had carried out some preservation on the synagogue last year, but the Department recommended further research on the building before further work was initiated.
It noted that under Soviet rule the synagogue had been used as a warehouse; the building’s interior features were destroyed, with only a very few traces surviving. Changes also were made to the exterior of the building.
The Lithuanian Synagogues Catalogue, edited by Aliza Coen-Mushlin, Sergey Kravtsov, Vladimir Levin, Giedrė Mickūnaitė, Jurgita Šiaučiūnaitė-Verbickienė (vol. 2; pp 187-191), dates the synagogue to probably the late 19th century and describes it thus:
a rectangular log structure on a masonry foundation, elongated on an east-west axis, 13.19 m long, 11.95 m wide and about 9.50 m high above the foundation. The log walls are reinforced with vertical posts and sided with vertical planks. There were two entrances, in the northern and western façades (Figs. 4, 5), however it is not clear which was the main one. The exterior clearly shows the interior division of space into a lofty prayer hall and a two-storey western part with a vestibule and first-floor women’s section. The interior partitions have not survived, and today the interior is a single space. The interior was lathed and plastered. Today, the plaster is largely lost; where it survives, traces of blue painted frieze can be seen.
Some 200 or more elaborate wooden synagogues were found in eastern Europe before World War II. Almost all were destroyed. Lithuania is one of the few countries that still has wooden synagogues — about 14 altogether. All of them, however, are fairly simple buildings that probably survived destruction because of their relatively nondescript appearance.
See report and recent photographs of ongoing preservation work at the Alantos wooden synagogue.