(JTA) — An international team of archaeologists has unearthed the bimah of the Great Synagogue of Vilnius, a 17th-century building that was destroyed by the Nazis and Soviets during World War II.
Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius told the AFP news agency that the city plans to demolish the school closed last year and build a memorial to the historic synagogue on the site. He said the memorial, which will display artifacts from the synagogue, will be built in time for the 700th birthday of the Lithuania capital in 2023.
The discovery of the Tuscan Baroque-style bimah, the synagogue’s central prayer platform, was announced Thursday by Jon Seligman, director of the Excavations, Surveys and Research Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, AFP reported. The bimah is considered one of the central features of the synagogue.
It was discovered under the principal’s office of a former school built in the 1950s by the Soviets in order to prevent the synagogue or another Jewish cultural center from being rebuilt.
The synagogue was built in 1630 on a site that had been used as a synagogue beginning in 1440.
Three original pieces of furniture from the synagogue survived the destruction and are on display at the Vilna Gaon Jewish museum. They include a door of the holy ark, a reader’s desk and a bas relief of the Ten Commandments.
The archeological work at the synagogue site by Lithuanian, Israeli and American archaeologists is paid for mostly by a Lithuanian fund for Jewish communal property stolen by the Nazis and retained by the Soviets, according to AFP.