Copyright © 2015 Jon Seligman. All Rights Reserved.
The renewed excavation of the Great Synagogue, as a joint project of Lithuanian, Israeli and other heritage professionals, 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 a Jewish built cultural heritage as an inseparable part of Lithuanian heritage that needs to be celebrated by all and preserved for perpetuity.
To implement this important project we have gathered a group of participating academic, research and conservation institutions. Furthermore, without the support of Lithuanian academic, governmental and community organisations this project cannot advance and its roles will not be achieved.
The following are the participating institutions, though it must be empasised that we are open to participation by all interested parties.
Institutional & Community Partners
Israel Antiquities Authority
The Israel Antiquities Authority is an independent Israeli governmental authority responsible for enforcing the 1978 Law of Antiquities. Based in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority regulates excavation and conservation, and promotes research. Its functions include the curation and storing of the state collection of antiquities, maintaining a list of registered antiquities sites, inspecting antiquities sites, maintaining the national antiquities archive and holding the state archaeological library, the treatment of finds, the conservation of sites and dissemination of awareness of Israel's archaeological heritage to the public. The Israel Antiquities Authority annually conducts some 300 salvage and rescue excavations of endangered antiquities sites, giving it pronounced competence in this field.
Center for Jewish Art, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Founded in 1979 by the late Prof. Bezalel Narkiss, the Center for Jewish Art is a research center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose aim is the preservation and documentation of the artistic heritage of the Jewish people in order to reconstruct the visual culture of lost communities and preserve it for posterity. The Center has carried out a comprehensive program documenting Jewish art all over the globe, encompassing all facets of Jewish visual art. Work is conducted in five areas of study: Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts, Sacred and Ritual Objects, Ancient Jewish Art, Modern Jewish Art, as well as Jewish Ritual Architecture. Special attention was given to the remnants left after the havoc of WWII and the Communist regimes in Europe. Recently the Center has catalogued the extant synagogues in Lithuania, publishing them in two beautifully illustrated volumes.
'Kulturos paveldo išsaugojimo pajegos' (Cultural Heritage Preservation Forces)
Kulturos paveldo išsaugojimo pajegos is the oldest private archaeological contractor operating in Lithuania. It organises and conducts archaeological and heritage research, produces cultural management dossiers and arranges heritage awareness programmes. Kulturos paveldo išsaugojimo pajegos is a non-profit organisation, dedicated to its primary objective - cultural heritage protection. The main activities of the organisation are archaeological excavations and surveys. With invaluable experience gained in multiple projects over many years, Kulturos paveldo išsaugojimo pajegos has conducted numerous excavations in Lithuania, including the preliminary excavation of the remains of the Great Synagogue of Vilna in 2011.
The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design
The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is Israel's national school of art. Established in 1906, the Bezalel Academy is the oldest institution of higher education in Israel. The founder, Jewish artist and sculptor Boris Schatz , envisaged the creation of a national style of art blending Jewish, Middle Eastern and European traditions., The art created by Bezalel's students and professors in the early 1900s is considered the stepping stone for Israeli visual arts in the 20th century. Today faculties include Fine Arts, Architecture, Ceramic Design, Industrial Design, Jewelry, Photography, Visual Communication, Animation, Film, and Art History & Theory. The architecture campus, in the historic Bezalel building, in downtown Jerusalem, is home to the UNESCO Chair in Urban Design and Conservation that conducts research on world cultural heritage.
The University of Hartford, The Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies,
The Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford in Hartford Connecticut, is devoted to teaching and original research in Judaic Studies from the Biblical to the modern periods. Founded in 1985 by endowment, the Center offers an opportunity to choose from a rich array of classes in seven different areas of research: History, Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic, Bible, Holocaust and Israel Studies. The Greenberg Center studies the Biblical past through texts and archaeology, engaging in a series of archaeological and heritage projects both in Israel and in the Diaspora, including Bethsaida, Qumran, the Cave of Letters, Nazareth, Yavne, Har Karkom (Mount Sinai) in Israel; Burgos and Cadiz in Spain; Rhodes and a research project at the extermination camp at Sobibor in Poland.
The Department of Geography and Anthropology of the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire
The Department of Geography and Anthropology University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire aims at synthesizing and integrating disciplines directed toward understanding people and places, their cultures and environments, the relationships within and between them, and the multiple scales at which they operate. The Department provides a broad background in fields of earth sciences, particularly geomorphology, sedimentology, geoarchaeology. human-environmental studies and geospatial technology, such geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), remote sensing, and computer cartography.
The Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Duquesne University
The Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, provides education in a series of interconnected sciences concentrating on environmental and forensic sciences, physics, chemistry, biology and medicine. Training emphasizes integrated laboratory experiences, through which students learn the most modern experimental techniques using state-of-the-art instrumentation. The work of the Bayer School includes research on environmental change, paleo-climate and landscape evolution; environmental education, sustainability and the human role in environmental change; paleo-environments, geoarchaeology and cultural landscape evolution.
A RESEARCH, EXCAVATION, PRESERVATION AND MEMORIAL PROJECT
The Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum
The Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum (Valstybinis Vilniaus Gaono Žydu Muziejus) in Vilnius, is dedicated to the historical and cultural heritage of Lithuanian Jewry.Established in 1989 by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture, the Museum was named in honour of the great Talmudic scholar, the Vilna Gaon, to mark the 200th anniversary of his passing in 1997. The Museum’s branches focus on various aspects of history and culture: collections of sacred and modern works, traditional art, the Green House Holocaust exhibit, the Holocaust memorial at Ponar (Paneriai), the Jacques Lipchitz Memorial Museum and the history of Lithuanian Jews in the interwar and Nazi period. The Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum has kindly extended its sponsorship to the Great Synagogue of Vilna project. u
Jewish Community of Lithuania (Lietuvos Žydu Bendruomene)
Prior to the Holocaust Lithuania hosted a highly organized community of some 250.000 Jews, of which 206,000 perished at the hands of the Nazis and local collaborators. After WWII the survivors met hostility from the Soviet regime and reorganization of community organizations proved impossible. Continued emigration and assimilation have reduced the numbers of the Jewish community, however the Lithuanian Jewish community has reorganised itself and is today represented by a vibrant communal institution that provides important social support and cultural leadership for the remaining Jews. We have the honour of the support of the Jewish Community of Lithuania and its chairperson, Adv. Faina Kukliansky for the the Great Synagogue of Vilna project. We hope that the Jewish youth from the community will take part in the excavation of the Great Synagogue of Vilna.
It is important to note the support of the following institutions and their representatives for the Great Synagogue of Vilna project:
- Director Diana Varnaite of the Department of Cultural Heritage under the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture (Kulturos paveldo departamento prie Kulturos ministerijos).
- Dr. Jurgita Verbickiene of the History Faculty of Vilnius University. Prof. Jurgita Verbickiene specializes in the history of the Jews in Lithuania.
- Prof. Albinas Kuncevicius of the History Faculty of Vilnius University. Prof. Kuncevicius specializes in the medieval archaeology of Lithuania and Vilnius.
We hope to welcome archaeology and History students of Vilnius University as participants in the excavation of the Great Synagogue and Shulhoyf of Vilna.
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