How wonderful to see that the restored wooden synagogue in Žiežmariai has been used for a religious service for the first time since World War II — a Bat Mitzvah. Mazel tov!
The Bat Mitzvah girl was Ariana Zitkauskas, whose father Viljamas, a tour guide, is the founding president of Bnei Maskilim, a reform congregation established in Vilnius last year. Presiding at the June 2 ceremony were Rabbi Nathan Alfred and Cantor Alan J. Brava of the Free Synagogue of Flushing, NY, Bnei Maskilim’s sister congregation.
The have worked with the Lithuanian Jewish community for the past couple of years and on this trip also conducted a wedding, Shabbat services, and other bnei mitzvot in Vilnius.
Here’s a Facebook post about the Žiežmariai ceremony from the Lithuanian Jewish Community:
We have posted several times about the Žiežmariai synagogue, one of about a dozen small wooden synagogues that survive in Lithuania, following the progress of its restoration.
The synagogue probably dates from the latter half of the 19th century — and then was rebuilt after a fire in 1918. It includes a prayer hall with 18 windows (one of them combined with a door).
It languished in sad disrepair for decades, until restoration began in 2016. Restoration of most of the building was completed in 2021, and it has been in use for cultural events and exhibitions.
In April, the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad took on as a project the restoration of the to-date unfinished women’s gallery and pledged to raise $75,000 toward the work.