Copyright © 2015-2021   Jon Seligman.  All Rights Reserved.
Home - The Great Synagogue & Shulhoyf of Vilna
Facade of the Great Synagogue of Vilna
Though only a small fraction of the historic synagogues and other Jewish communal buildings  of Lithuania survived the Holocaust, they are an essential and integral part of the cultural heritage of Lithuania. None was more consequential or important than the magnificent Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius), the oldest and most significant monument of Litvak Jewry.

Sadly, like most of the edifices of Litvak culture, the Great Synagogue of Vilna, the spiritual and physical home of the Gaon of Vilna,  was ransacked and destroyed. As part of the process to find a fitting memorial for the Synagogue and its associated buildings, we have established of a joint expedition of Lithuanian, Israeli and north American heritage professionals, to excavate, preserve and present in-situ the remains of the Great Synagogue as part of an overall scheme for the long-lasting safeguarding of the memory of the Jewish community of Vilnius, the 'Jerusalem of Lithuania'.

The excavation of the Great Synagogue, as a joint project of heritage professionals - archaeologists, historians, architects and other scholars, presents an opportunity that goes far beyond the research possibilities that provide for a better understanding of the Great Synagogue and the surrounding structures of the shulhoyf. By working together, Lithuanians, Israelis, Americans and Litvaks from around the world, emphasis can be placed on the importance of Jewish built cultural heritage, as an inseparable part of Lithuanian heritage that needs to be celebrated by all and preserved for perpetuity.

During the first year of this project we conducted geophysical scans of the site to attempt to identify underground remains. From 2016 we have returned to the site excavated two miqve'ot (ritual baths), the bathhouse of the synagogue and the Bimah of the Great Synagogue. In the summer of 2021, we will be returning to Vilnius to continue exposure of the Bimah and the Aron Kodesh (Torah Ark) - (see here).

Parallel research has been conducted at Ponar-Paneriai, the place where the Jewish community of Vilna was annihilated during the Holocaust. Here our geophysical work has uncovered the escape tunnel from the site, a story you can read here.

It is the hope of the team that the joint efforts of professionals, volunteers and donors of all communities, will meet in a joint project that can bring together the widely dispersed community of Lithuanians and Litvak Jews while preserving part of their mutual heritage for the future.
Make a Donation to this Project here.
Check our Facebook page for regular updates.