Information for Media: The Bimah of the Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius) is Rediscovered

Information for Media: The Bimah of the Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius) is Rediscovered

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The Israel Antiquities Authority, Kultūros paveldo Išsaugojimo pajėgos, the Good Will Foundation, and the Jewish Community of Lithuania are pleased to announce the results of the third season of excavation at the Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius) & the Shulhoyf.

This year’s excavation, led by Dr. Jon Seligman of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Justinas Račas of the Kultūros paveldo Išsaugojimo pajėgos, focused on defining the outer walls of the bathhouse first exposed last year and finding the back wall of the Great Synagogue.

July 26, 2018 (Thrusday) at 2 pm we invite the media to the excavation site of Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius) (Vokiečių str. 13A) to take a closer look with a findings of the unique Judaic religious centre.

The participation of archaeologist team that carried out the excavation of Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius), Vilnius major Remigijus Šimačius, Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community and PE “Good Will Foundation” Chair Faina Kukliansky are planned.

The work, conducted by a mixed team of Lithuanians, Israelis and Americans, succeeded not only to find the massive external wall of the Great Synagogue, part of its floor and but also a part of the Bimah. Bimah – is a central part of the synagogue, a platform, from which Rabbi reads Torah and leads the services – were excavated below the floors of the school that was built over the Great Synagogue in the 1952.

The Bimah, constructed in the 18th century, was donated by the noted Jewish benefactor known by his acronym as the Yesod. The ornate Bimah, was a two tiered Baroque structure with four Corinthian and eight Tuscan columns. Pieces of these columns were found during the excavation. Without question, the discovery of the Bimah is an exciting development, as it was from this platform that the Torah was read to the Jewish community of Vilnius for three centuries before the building was burnt by the Nazis and later demolished by the Soviets.

In addition large sections of the walls of the bathhouse, and the men’s miqve (ritual bath) decorated with coloured tiles, was exposed for the first time.

The discovery of the walls of the Bimah and the miqve shows the further potential for excavation at the site and the exciting possibility to present the remains of the Great Synagogue of Vilna (Vilnius) & the Shulhoyf in the future.

The work was aided by Zenonas Baubonis (Kultūros paveldo išsaugojimo pajėgos, Lithuania); Prof. Richard Freund (University of Hartford, Connecticut, USA); Prof. Harry Jol (University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, USA) and Prof. Philip Reeder (Duquesne University, Pittsburg, USA).

The project is partially financed by the Good Will Foundation implementing the project “The archaeological research of the Great Vilnius synagogue and Shullhoyf”, project No.: GVF-271/2017(2)PR. Partner of the project – Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community.

Contacts for more information:

Dr. Jon Seligman – Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem, Israel,

Zenonas Baubonis and Justinas Račas – Kultūros paveldo išsaugojimo pajėgos, Vilnius, Lithuania,

Monika Antanaitytė – Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community, Vilnius, Lithuania, +37067240942,

Author of the photos: Jūratė Raugalienė