Another former synagogue in Belarus is up for sale for a nominal price — this one is the former Great Synagogue in the small town of Ostrino (Astryna), in western Belarus near the Polish and Lithuanian borders. Terms of the sale would allow demolition of the building.
The former synagogue is scheduled to be sold at an auction organized by the State Property Committee on March 18, with a starting price of just 116 rubles, or €37.
The two-storey brick building is being sold by the Department of Ideological Work, Culture and Youth Affairs of the Shchuchin District Executive Committee, which had used it as a cultural center.
The synagogue was built in the early 20th century, as part of a complex of two masonry synagogues that replaced two wooden synagogues destroyed in a fire in 1898, according to a detailed history and description of the building carried out in 2000 and held by the Center for Jewish Art.
It functioned as a synagogue probably until 1939, and after WW2 was rebuilt for other purposes — already in 2000 it housed a theatre and House of Culture. (The latest information we have is that the second synagogue also remains standing, but is abandoned.)
The auction notice described the 478 square meter property as a “specialized building for cultural, educational and entertainment purposes” that included an “entrance hall, terrace, two sheds, [and] restroom.” It said it would also be possible to convert it for housing.
Nowhere is it identified as a former synagogue.
The terms of the sale would allow the building to be demolished and a new building be constructed on the site.
If the buyer restores the existing building, the new function of the building must be operational within three years of the sale — if it is demolished and a new structure built on the site, it must be operational within five years of the sale.
The former synagogue in Ostrino is the third to go up for sale for a nominal price in Belarus in recent weeks.
In January, authorities in Vitebsk, the hometown of the artist Marc Chagall, announced it wanted to sell the roofless ruins of the city’s Great Lubavitch beis midrash (synagogue) for a nominal price — or give it away free — to whoever will invest in the conservation of the ruins or restoration of the building, which is listed as a historic monument.
At the end of December, the long-abandoned 17th century Great Synagogue in Slonim was sold at auction to a musician/writer from Minsk named Ilona Karavaeva (Ioanna Reeves), for c. €9,000.