Created in 2002 by several Jewish organizations in Belarus, the Jewish Heritage Research Group is a local team of historians, genealogists, guides and others actively engaged and interested in Belarus Jewish heritage activities.The group carried out documentation of Jewish heritage sites around the country and produced a map; it has restored Jewish cemeteries in Mir, Rakov, Druja, and Gorki and it is engaged on synagogue restorations projects.
The most comprehensive and up-to-date survey of Jewish cemeteries in Belarus, carried out in 2017 by the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative with the support of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. It includes information on more than 150 Jewish cemeteries, including GPS and condition of the site.
The Project reported in 2010, based on information provided by the Belarus Jewish Heritage Research Group:
“After the war, most of the Belorussian Jewish cemeteries were closed to new burials. In some places, the local population reused Jewish tombstones for their non-Jewish relatives and to build houses. In 1960s, Soviets started to build on the old Jewish cemeteries and replaced them with stadiums, such as in Grodno, Gomel, Brest; apartment complexes such as in Slutzk, Voronovo, Lida, Lyakhovichy, and Pinsk. Since the end of the 1980s after the fall of the Soviet regime, Jewish cemeteries began to get more attention, mostly from descendants and from Jewish organizations. Some cemeteries were cleaned, tombstones reerected and cleaned, photographed and catalogued. Belorussian Jewish organizations took responsibility to maintain some of the old Jewish cemeteries. Despite all the efforts, the majority of old Jewish cemeteries in Belarus are still abandoned. Very few active Jewish cemeteries remain, some are in Bobruisk, Borisov, Mogilev, Vitebsk, and Orsha. One cemetery (with wooden tombstones and founded in 1568) is located in the village called Lenin. Some famous Rabbis are buried in Belorussian Jewish cemeteries, well known pilgrimage sites such as Borisov, Grodno, Radun, Volozhin, Slonim, and Mir.”
A growing index of historic tombstones located in the territory of Belarus today, including in some Jewish cemeteries.
Clickable list of nearly 30 such memorials, with photos
You can find information on most sites of Jewish heritage sites in Belarus through the general links listed above. Here below, as on other country pages, we provide information on individual Jewish heritage sites in Belarus that have their own web sites or other web resources.
There is a ruined, 17th-century fortress synagogue, located in an architectural preserve on the territory of Bykhov Castle, in a fortified compound that also includes a former Catholic church.. Plans were announced in 2013 to restore it as a museum.
The Great Synagogue was built in 1902-1905, on the site of a 16th century wooden synagogue. There is a small Jewish museum/permanent exhibit in the building. The synagogue was damaged by fire in November 2013.
Several other synagogues, transformed for other use, still stand in the town, as well as former Jewish schools, Jewish-owned factories and business premises: they include the former Orech Chaim synagogue; former Hayei Adam HaGadol synagogue (now a sports hall); former Frumkin synagogue (dwelling); former Slabodka synagogue (dwelling?); former Shaar HaTorah Yeshiva; former Yavne school.
Compiled by Eric Adler, the list includes 1,829 names, with dates ranging from 1784 to 1968
The Jewish cemetery in Lenin, established in 1568, includes rare wooden matzevas, believed to be the only ones in Belarus, Poland and other neighboring countries. In 2012, an expedition of the Virtual Shtetl project of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw arranged basic protection of these grave markers, via Anton Astapowicz of the Belarussian Association for Monument Preservation.
The Jewish cemetery (located between Olchinskogo and Nacional’nij Spusk Streets), was first noted in written records in 1745. The cemetery was damaged during World War II and in the Soviet period, when stones were also stolen. Most remaining stones date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Lo Tishkach, or Do Not Forget, Jewish community project undertaken in 2013 by adults and young people involved the clearing and maintenance of the cemetery (including erecting a fence and gate and righting about 30 stones), reading and translating the inscriptions on the matzevot, and creating a complete online inventory of the burials there.
The Jewish cemetery in Rakov dates back to the 18th century, with the earliest known grave marker that of Beyla daughter of Asher from 1742. The cemetery has been photographed and indexed, with names, photos and other data available online.
Baroque synagogue dating to 1642; one of the oldest and best-preserved in Belarus. The World Monuments Fund made it one of its 10 Jewish heritage preservation priorities in 1995 and carried out some restoration work in the early 2000s. In May 2016 it was announced that restoration would be completed and the building would become a Jewish culture museum.
Only a small fraction of the Jewish cemetery remains; other parts of it have been razed and built over. thanks to a restoration effort begun in 2007 (sponsored by descendants and managed by Yuri Dorn of The Jewish Heritage Research Group of Belarus) there is now an online database of more than 150 gravestones, with transcriptions and translations of epitaphs. According to the web site, the restoration included “cleaning up the cemetery, repainting and mending the fences, lifting the gravestones from where they lay beneath the soil and photographing and cataloging them.”
The Great Lyubavitsky Synagogue, built in 1872, is in abandoned and ruinous condition. It stands on Revolution street, near the Marc Chagall Museum & Art Center. There are long-term plans to reconstruct it, if funds are found.