Conserving Jewish cultural heritage in Latvia
With help from Norwegian construction students, one of the oldest wooden synagogues in the Baltics has been restored. When the ‘Green Synagogue’ opened to the public it was barely recognisable.
This article was originally published on the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website: https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/make-over-of-synagogue-in-latvia/id2472416/
Turnout was solid for the official opening of the ‘Green Synagogue’ in the Latvian city Rezekne on 22 January. Dating back to 1845, the Synagogue, which is the last remaining synagogue of 11 synagogues in Rezekne, was in use until the early 1990s.
Since then, the building, which is one of few synagogues that has been preserved in Eastern Europe, was left to decay. Supported by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants, a project aiming to restore one of the oldest wooden synagogues in the Baltics was launched in April 2014. The restoration work is now completed. The video shows the transformation of the synagogue from a derelict building to a restored wooden synagogue in line with historic conservation techniques.
Norwegian construction students from Sam Eyde upper secondary school in Arendal participated in the restoration project. A total of 60 students from the school have been in Rezekne to help restore the Synagogue, and has thus gained valuable work experience at the Latvian synagogue.
The Norwegian students have worked together with local students from Rezekne, local craftsmen and the construction company that had the primary responsibility for the restoration process.
Gita Umanovska is the executive director of the Jewish Community of Latvia. She says that the restoration is of great significance for the Jewish community in the country:
“Before World War II, Rezekne was a vibrant Jewish community and home to more than 3 000 Jews. During the war, Latvian synagogues were burned by the Nazis. It is a miracle that the ‘Green Synagogue’ survived the World War II. In Soviet times, when religious activities were almost impossible, a small community of 200 people used the synagogue. The restoration of the synagogue will benefit everyone – that’s a new miracle!”
The ‘Green Synagogue’ will function as a centre for the conservation of wooden buildings and act as a cultural information centre focusing on Jewish cultural heritage. The building will also be used as a synagogue.
The restoration of the ‘Green Synagogue’ is part of a series of projects supported by the EEA Grants with the aim of conserving Jewish cultural heritage.
Facts about the project
- Long-standing collaboration between Sam Eyde upper secondary school/Aust-Agder county (Norway) and Rezekne municipality
- The restoration process was implemented in line with traditional craft techniques and was approved by the Latvian Directorate for Cultural Heritage
- Architect Arthur Lapins was responsible for implementation
- The restoration of the ‘Green Synagogue’ has received a grant of almost €575 million from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the Latvian ‘Conservation and Revitalisation of Cultural and Natural Heritage’ programme
Restoration of Rezekne Green Synagogue including development of wooden architecture centre and exposition of Jewish culture heritage
Protecting Cultural Heritage
Rezekne City Council
Type of Institution:
Regional or local authority
The project envisages restoration of the Green Synagogue of Rezekne, the oldest wooden synagogue of the Baltic region. The Synagogue is situated in the historical centre of Rezekne. Beneficiaries of the project implementation are the receivers of cultural service – part of society which is interested in cultural heritage. The donor project partner is the Sam Eyde upper secondary school in Norway, which in the process of the project implementation visits Rezekne four times to assist in the restoration process. The project includes two project partners from Latvia - Rezekne Art and Design Secondary School and Austrumlatgale Vocational Secondary School from which the experts of the restoration field will be included. The partnerships bring new quality to the Green Synagogue of Rezekne through partners' exchange of know-how and experiences. This will considerably improve the image of the historical centre and may become a best practice example for restoration of other wooden buildings.