Jewish Heritage Europe

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Information placard in Vilnius at the site of the Great Synagogue.


Samuel D. Gruber has written up a report on the conference held back in September about how to commemorate the site of the destroyed Great Synagogue in Vilnius.

The conference September 4-5 was organized by the nonprofit entity “Jerusalem of the North” in partnership with: Judaica Research Center at the Martynas Mazvydas National Library of Lithuania.

In his report, published on his blog,  Gruber provides a full photographic documentation of the site of the Synagogue and Shulhoyf complex as it exists today.

He outlines some of the issues raised during the conference and describes some of the papers presented and notes the discoveries made by archaeologists at the site in the past two years, including the unearthing of two tiled ritual baths.

Almost everyone [at the conference] favored continuation of the archaeology, but there is no consensus yet as to what end. The site can be treated in many ways - from an archaeological park, or a memorial garden, or as an interpretive center or museum, or even with a completely rebuilt, and mostly modern, structure. While various options were put forward, it was not the thrust of the conference to be absolute, but rather to search widely for inspiration and examples about how the site could be best preserved and presented, and how accessibly, forcefully, and explicitly the site and its history could be publicly presented [...]

Jon Seligman presented in detail about the results of archaeological excavations and he also spoke about the challenges of archaeological conservation, and showed several examples of successful efforts to publicly present archeological finds. Most dramatic of these is the splendid archaeological exhibit which is a major component of Vilnius's own entirely rebuilt Palace of the Duke's [...]

Israeli architect Tsila Zak presented her latest concept for the area. She first won a competition in 1980 that would address the site and she has been adjusting, refining, and adapting this for decades. Over the years, it has been endorsed and accepted by many local governments and leading cultural figures, but never implemented. Whether Zak's design will now have a chance in uncertain. Her project addresses many of the main concerns and seems very practical. She re-instates the older street pattern and approximates the former elevation, and she creates a public memorial space - part paved and part green - that includes important symbolic elements of the synagogue but also is designed to accommodate individual and group gatherings, continuing a fundamental role of a synagogue space. Zak's design could be built in phases and adjusted in many ways. She has given years of thought to the problem of the place and space, so her work seems the best place to start a broad public and professional discussion


Click here to read the full report on the conference

Click to see 3D model of synagogue debuted at the conference

Click here to see our post about the archaeologists' finds



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