The Ruins of the Great Lubavitch Synagogue in Vitebsk

Vitebsk

Churches, katolik churches, сathedral, monasteries

The Ruins of the Great Lubavitch Synagogue in Vitebsk

The Great Lubavitch Synagogue was constructed in the town Vitebsk in Bolshaya Ilyinskaya St. (today - Revolutsionnaya St.) in the early XX century. At the time the town ranked among ten large towns with the greatest number of Jewish population. Over time a number of people forming the Jewish community had grown so highly that the local government permitted them to construct a synagogue. In the late XVIII Vitebsk became the center of Chasidism in Belarus.

Houses of worship played an important role in life of Jews. They spent the greatest part of their time there. In architectural terms they were quite simple. As a rule, they were ordinary wooden houses. Nevertheless, the houses of worship became centers of social and cultural life of Jews.

By the beginning of the XX century in Vitebsk there were over half a hundred synagogues, and according to the census of the time, The Jewish population in the town was over 50%.

All synagogues in the town were one-storey wooden buildings, and only some of them stood out fr om the rest for their majesty. One of such structures was the Great Lubavitch Synagogue.

Jews at all times preserved and honored their culture, customs and traditions, so in their synagogues there were always kept a huge number of artifacts. One of them was Scroll of Torah presenting parchment sheets up to 60 m long. In one synagogue there could be over 10 such scrolls despite their preciousness. It took over hath a year to make them. Somewhile there was established a private manufactory in the town wh ere such scrolls were made. Irrespectively of their high price, they were bought rather quickly. 

During the Great Patriotic War buildings of synagogues were destroyed, no restoration was carried out. The Soviet authorities also agreed not to restore or build anything, so the buildings continued to be destructed.

Unfortunately, the historical property of Jewish culture has not survived to us as well as archive photos of Jewish buildings. The picture of Marc Chagall “My Village” showing a one-storey wooden synagogue is the only valuable archive exhibit item.

The Great Lubavitch Synagogue, despite its devastated condition, is the only monument of Jewish culture that has survived to our days. The ruins that one can see serve an example of the then Jewish houses of worship. Some records indicate that the father of Marc Chagall attended this synagogue when they lived in the nearby street.

The synagogue was closed in 1923. The building was occupied by an aero club, and then by a cultural center, later it served as storage. From its original appearance only the walls, facade and partially overlap have survived.

Now it is not restored, but it cannot prevent those who are interested in Jewish culture, architectural features from coming there and watching the building, appreciating its value and importance.

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