Media Reports on the Great Synagogue & Shulhoyf of Vilna Project
This is the full press release issued by the Israel Antiquities Authority for the project after the Ground Penetrating Radar survey in 2015.
Remains of the Great Synagogue and Shulhof of Vilna are Rediscovered Seventy Years after their Destruction by the Nazis (July 2015) A Ground Penetrating Radar survey conducted in June 2015 in Vilnius, Lithuania has uncovered the underground remains of the Great Synagogue and Shulhoyf of Vilna, now lying partially below a modern school. These important remnants of what was before the Holocaust, Lithuania's greatest synagogue, will be exposed in an excavation to commence next year.
The magnificent Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius) in Lithuania, was the oldest and most significant monument of Litvak Jewry. Sadly, like most of the edifices of Jewish culture in Lithuania, the Great Synagogue was lost during the Holocaust. A joint team, led by Dr. Jon Seligman from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Zenonas Baubonis of the the Culture Heritage Conservation Authority of Lithuania, together with Prof. Richard Freund of the University of Hartford, have just completed a successful season to identify the remains of the synagogue using ground penetrating radar.
Built in the 17th century in Renaissance-Baroque style, the Great Synagogue of Vilna was surrounded over time with other community buildings, including twelve synagogues, the community council, kosher meat stalls, the famous Strashun library, a complex of miqva'ot (ritual baths) and other communal institutions that formed a great centre of Torah study, the beating heart of the Lithuanian Jewish movement of Mitnagdim and the home for Rabbi Eliyahu, the Vilna Gaon.
After centuries of existence, with the destruction of the entire Jewish community of Vilna, this most important shrine of the Jews of Lithuania was ransacked and burnt by the Germans during World War II, the remains later demolished by the Soviet authorities and a modern school was constructed on the site.
In a season of work, conducted in June 2015, the results of the ground penetrating radar survey showed significant remains of the synagogue below the surface, including sections of the Great Synagogue and possible remnants of the miqva'ot. Excavation is planned at the site in 2016 with the hope of exposing these remains for research and to display to them to the general public as a fitting memorial to the important Jewish community of Vilna.
It is proposed that the future excavation will be conducted by a mixed team of archaeologists and student volunteers from Lithuania, Israel and the worldwide Jewish community, with the aim of ensuring that Jewish built cultural heritage is seen as an important and inseparable part of Lithuanian heritage that needs to be celebrated by all and preserved for perpetuity. The Israel Antiquities Authority encourages the public to take part in future excavations at the site and welcomes sponsorship of this exciting project to uncover the remains of the Great Synagogue of Vilna. Anybody wishing to take part can contact the Israel Antiquities Authority through its website.
A joint team also includes Professor Harry Jol of the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire; Professor Philip Reeder of Duquesne University and Dr. Vladimir Levin of the Center for Jewish Art, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
A RESEARCH, EXCAVATION, PRESERVATION AND MEMORIAL PROJECT
Harry Jol & Nicole Awad conducting the GPR survey at the site of the Great Synagogue of Vilna, June 2015
Newspaper and media reports based on this press release.
Press reports in English The Jewish Press - here
Archaeology - here
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Press Reports in Hebrew Ynet - here
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News1 Makhlaka Rishona - here
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Also on Galatz radio. Press Reports in French Times of Israel Francais - here
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Press Reports in Spanish Diario Judio - here
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Komsomolskaya Prada Ukraine - here
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