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A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Archaeological Rediscovery of the Great Synagogue of Vilna

Posted 01/28/2016
Posted by David Isgur

University of Hartford Professor Richard Freund, director of the University’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies and his team made a huge discovery in July 2015 with the uncovering of the sub-surface of the 17th/18th century Great Synagogue of Vilna in Lithuania.  Freund is now joining with David Fishman, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, to present a program on “The Jerusalem of Lithuania: The Rediscovery of the Great Synagogue of Vilna.” The program, being held on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m., in the University’s Mali II Auditorium, is free and open to the public.

The Synagogue and the accompanying 12 surrounding shulhoyfn (prayer and study houses) was a former hub of Jewish life that was ransacked by the Nazis at the end of World War II and ultimately demolished by the Soviets in 1957. Freund’s lecture will trace the Great Synagogue’s origins in the 16th century and through its growth in the era of the Vilna Gaon in the 18th century, where it served as a symbol of what made Vilna the “Jerusalem of Lithuania. “ Freund will also reveal the newest details of the landmark rediscovery effort that his team and teams from Lithuania and Israel are involved in. He will also talk about new surprising information about the Ponary Massacres that decimated Vilna under the Nazis. These projects are now part of a planned television documentary to be filmed this summer in Lithuania.

Professor Fishman of the Jewish Theological Seminary will talk about the fate of the centerpiece building of the Great Synagogue that partially survived the war only to be demolished by the Soviets. Fishman has is the author of the acclaimed book, Embers Plucked from the Fire: The Rescue of the Cultural Treasures of Vilna.

For more information, contact the University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at 860.768.‎4964 or