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28 Aug 2014

Synagogues of Belarus exhibition opens in Grodno

GRODNO, 28 August (BelTA) – The lost heritage of Jewish culture of Belarus is showcased at the photo and art exhibition in Grodno, BelTA learned from the chairman of the Grodno Jewish religious community Boris Kvyatkovsky.

The exhibition "The Synagogues of Belarus" in the Grodno big choral synagogue features more than 50 synagogues in photographs and paintings. The black and white photographs were made by Polish art photographers Krzysztof Beliawski and Agata Maksimowska during a recent expedition around Belarus. The big choral synagogue also exhibits scenic paintings by artist Anatoly Nalivayev made in the 1950-60s. The architectural landscapes are distinguished by photographic precision, with which the painter recreated the monuments of Jewish culture. All the paintings have detailed historical footnotes.

The photographs and paintings depict the synagogues from Western Belarus. Most of them are lost, many are in decline. For example, the synagogue in Lida survived the war but was blown up in peacetime. Some buildings are in better shape. These are, for example, preaching houses in Ivie, Svisloch, Slonim, Oshmiany, Indure, Bobruisk, Brest, and Mogilev. The building of the Russian Drama Theater in Minsk is the former synagogue. Many of the synagogues were masterpieces of wooden and stone architecture.

Belarus has about 100 synagogues, about a tenth of them are in ruins. After the Great Patriotic War the surviving synagogues were turned into shops, schools, cinema houses, hospitals, notary offices, gyms. "Every Jewish town, and there were many of them in Belarus before the war, had one to two synagogues. Today these buildings could be restored and used as museums, exhibition halls, and cultural centers. For example, the synagogue of the 17th century in the center of Slonim has survived in a relatively good shape. It has interesting stucco and frescoes. Once the building was used as a furniture store, now it is closed. In Slonim District there are many mass graves of Jews. Thousands of them were killed during the war. The local synagogue could be made a branch of the local lore museum. But the Jewish communities are few in Belarus, and this goal is very difficult to achieve for them," said Boris Kvyatkovsky.

The exhibition "The Synagogues of Belarus" has been organized jointly by the museums of the history of the Jews of Poland and Grodno. It is a charity event. Donations will be sent for the reconstruction of the Grodno synagogue. The exhibition will be running until mid-September.

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Great Patriotic War monuments in Belarus