Monday, September 29, 2008

Lithuania: Pakruojis Wooden Synagogue Continues to Deteriorate. How Much Time is Left?

Lithuania: Pakruojis Wooden Synagogue Continues to Deteriorate. How Much Time is Left?

The former synagogue of Pakruojis, Lithuania, was perhaps the most impressive of that country’s surviving wooden synagogues. What remains of the early 19th century building continues to suffer from neglect and vandalism. Dora Boom of the Netherlands recently informed me that wooden planking from one side of the synagogue was being removed (see photos) – presumably to be reused or burned as firewood. Photos by Ruth Ellen Gruber show the damage in 2006.

I contacted Sergey Kravtsov of the Center for Jewish Art, who has documented the synagogue and prepared a graphic restoration of its former interior design. The “good news” from Sergey is that the wood that has been removed is not original, but was added in 1954, when the synagogue was reconstructed as a cinema. Initially, there was no siding (see photo by Chackelis Lemchenas, 1938). Sergey writes. “there are other severe problems, mainly the danger of fire, since the structure is abandoned, and is being frequently visited by homeless.”

Several projects for the restoration of the synagogue have been floated, but none have been funded. With all the worldwide interest in wooden synagogues, I hope there are donors who might be interested in saving at least this one – probably most important architecturally of those preserved, and one still intact enough to save. But intact for how long? The other wooden synagogues are also in perilous condition. Each Lithuanian winter threatens them with collapse.

Photos of what the interior of Pakruojis looked like before the Holocaust

I thank Dora, Sergey and Ruth for monitoring the condition of this important building, and for supplying photos.

Sergey’s virtual reconstruction of the synagogue can be seen by entering the CJA website at (be patient).

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