We reported in May that restoration work at the wooden synagogue in Žiežmariai, Lithuania was under way.
Samuel Gruber visited the site in October and has posted a detailed update of the status of work on his blog, with a photo gallery showing details of the work going on in the interior of the building and a detailed architectural description of the structure.
Three weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit the work and talk with the Mayor Vytenis Tomkus and the architect. We were lucky to have Vladimir Levin from the Center for Jewish Art in Jerusalem with us, since Valdimir had studied the building for the inventory and publication Synagogues of Lithuania. His advice on the restoration was especially valuable to the local architect. Both Vladimir and I stressed that the Žiežmariai synagogue’s greatest value was its authenticity, and that extreme effort was worth taking to protect and preserve every bit of original fabric in the building as possible.
The goal of the project should not be to fully restore the building, but to protect it and bring it to a level (new roof, water handling envelope, mechanical systems, etc.) to allow it to safely function as an exhibition and activity center. In this day when many other localities (such as Bilgorai, Poland) are eager to erect recreations of wooden synagogues the appeal of Žiežmariai must be its claim as the “real thing”.
The synagogue probably dates from the latter half of the 19th century and includes a prayer hall with 18 windows (one of them combined with a door).