Thursday, December 10, 2009

Conference: First Report from Vilnius Jewish Heritage Workshop

Vilnius, Lithuania. Sign on the Baron de Hirsch Houses, site of subsidized Jewish housing, and then a Nazi-established concentration/work camp, and then a murder and mass grave site for hundreds of Jews. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

Conference: First Report from Vilnius Jewish Heritage Workshop

Ruth Ellen Gruber has posted a brief report from the 2-day workshop on Jewish heritage in Lithuania that was held earlier this week in Vilnius. I was invited, but could not attend. We will see in time how much was accomplished, and how much was just. Despite a quick start in recognizing Jewish heritage sites - especially cemeteries and mas murder and grave sites - early in the 1990s, Lithuania has since lagged behind other countries in developing a coherent and effective policy to maintain and protect most of its historic Jewish sites.

According to Ruth, the workshop presented

"a number of depressing factors, including vandalism, apathy, lack of coordination and cooperation between stakeholders, and the usual "one Jew building three synagogues on a desert island" syndrome. But the fact that the seminar took place was positive and I [Ruth] did learn some positive developments.

These included the news that:

-- a grant from Norway through the EU has been obtained to start rebuilding the "red synagogue" in Joniskis whose eastern wall collapsed in a hurricane two years ago.

-- both the Culture Ministry and the municipality of Pakruojis are committed to restoring the wooden synagogue there, which was seriously damaged by arson earlier this year.

Joniskis, Lithuania. The "Red Synagogue," one of two synagogues in this historic complex (before storm damage). Photos: ISJM archive

1 comment:

R and S said...

We visited Joniskis September, 2010, and were appalled by the disrepair of the red and white synagogues in the complex there. On our return May 1, 2011, we were astounded by the tremendous progress in restoring them, especially the red synagogue. We have pictures from both visits, but don't know how to share them.