Belarus to build Jewish museum inside old synagogue

(JTA) — The government of Belarus said it will renovate one of the country’s oldest synagogues and turn it into a Jewish museum.

The museum will be housed starting this year inside the restored ruins of the main synagogue in Bykhaw, a town located some 150 miles east of Minsk, the Belarus minister of culture, Boris Svetlov, told the Belarusian Telegraph Agency.

The 17th century synagogue — a tall, square building with three arched windows in each facade and a tower in one of its corners — is part of Bykhovsky Castle, a fortress in the east of the country. The restoration and the museum’s establishment is part of a $1 million renovation project of the castle complex initiated this year.

Only several thousand members of the Belarus Jewish population of approximately 1 million survived the Holocaust, according to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. Bykhaw’s 1939 population census lists 2,295 Jews, or one-fifth of the city’s population, but only a small fraction was able to flee the Nazis. The Jews of Bykhaw, which is also sometimes referred to as Bykhov, were murdered in two mass-murder operations in September 1941 and November 1941.

Belarus now has 45,000 Jews, according to the European Jewish Congress.

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