Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lithuania -- conference and news highlights

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I've been at an intense, interesting and, I hope, productive seminar in Vilnius about Jewish heritage preservation and promotion. The meeting was supposed to focus on the plan that was floated some time ago to rebuild the destroyed Great Synagogue in Vilnius, but it soon expanded to take in all sorts of issues, from the status of former synagogues, including wooden synagogues, in the provinces, to amplifying signage and awareness in the old Jewish quarter of Vilnius.

The situation presents 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 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.

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