Revitalising Jewish cultural heritage in Lithuania

Preserving Jewish cultural heritage is an important aim of the EEA and Norway Grants, and through the Lithuanian ‘Conservation and revitalisation of cultural and natural heritage’ programme, this has gained momentum.

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Adapted from an article by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.

Preservation of Lithuanian Jewish cultural heritage calls for joint efforts from all levels of the society in order to safeguard and preserve Jewish culture and history for future generations, as well as to make it publicly accessible. To this end, several projects have received support through the EEA Grants, including two Lithuanian synagogues which will be revitalised and adapted in order to stimulate cultural life and economic development of the local communities. A third project will provide interactive information about Jewish cultural heritage in Lithuania through a mobile app.

Preservation of the synagogue of Pakruojis

In 2014, an initiative to restore and preserve the valuable wooden Pakruojis Synagogue as a cultural heritage for the local community was launched. The restored synagogue will be adapted and reused to meet the needs of the Children’s Literature Section of the Pakruojis District Municipality Juozas Paukštelis Public Library. Run by Pakruojis District Municipality Administration, the initiative has received a grant of almost €600 000 from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the ‘Conservation and revitalisation of cultural and natural heritage’ programme.

After restoration of the building, educational and cultural events will be organised in the building, including an exhibition of Pakruojis Jewish culture and history commemorating the Jewish community of Pakruojis that was destroyed in the middle of the 20th century. The project will likewise aims to help address social problems by providing leisure activities and literature for young people, and contributing to job creation during the restoration period.

Pakruojis synagogue
Photo: Raimondas Urbakavičius

During the project implementation period, two training session will be organised, providing the local community with useful and valuable insights into the synagogue’s restoration process, research results and its importance to Pakruojis’ history, economy and urban development. A conference promoting tolerance and intercultural dialogue, ‘The uniqueness of Jewish heritage’, was held on 29 September 2015. The conference was open to anyone with an interest in Jewish culture and history.

Adaption of the White Synagogue for public needs

Another project is the preservation of the White Synagogue in Joniškis. Implemented by the Joniškis  District Municipality, the project will adapt the unique White Synagogue, built in 1823, to the needs of the public. Together with the Red Synagogue, which was renovated during the previous EEA funding period of 2004-2009, the building is an object of Jewish historical heritage that intertwines traditional architectural style with Judaism’s religious symbols, combining both classical and romantic architectural style.

Within the framework of the project, major maintenance work will be carried out – and by restoring and installing the equipment and furniture necessary, the synagogue is foreseen to become an important cultural center for the local community. During the preparatory phase, courses for museum employees, experts of cultural heritage, owners of heritage objects and representatives of Žagarė Regional Park will be held. These courses will provide an arena for discussing cultural heritage in Joniškis, and the Jewish community’s impact on cultural development in the town.

Historically, the synagogue was used as a Jewish community center. After restoration and adaption of the building, the synagogue will be a regional cultural center where educational activities and cultural events will be held. The project will thus contribute to the development of public infrastructure, cultural services and heritage accessibility, and increase tourism in the area.  

Jewish heritage through a mobile application

In close connection with the revitalisation of the two synagogues, the project ‘Actualization and presentation of Jewish cultural heritage through mobile application’ aims to actualise Jewish cultural heritage in Lithuania through the creation of a mobile application available for the public. The initiative is run by Centre for Studies of the Culture and History of East European Jews, and has received approximately €100 000 through the EEA Grants. The Norwegian company Jazzmontør is a partner in the project.

The objective of the project is to develop an innovative mobile application that can present contemporary art and culture to a broader audience, and provide the user with knowledge about Jewish cultural heritage and its influence on Lithuanian society. Through the app, all related cultural heritage information associated with a specific area will be available, thus ensuring that knowledge about Jewish cultural heritage reaches a broader audience, including foreign visitors. The app is expected to be launched in 2016.

European day of Jewish culture

Support for Jewish cultural heritage and initiatives countering anti-semitism are also addressed through a variety of events taking place with support through the Grants. In order to commemorate the European Day of Jewish Culture, several events took place in Lithuania in September. The theme of the year of 2015 was Bridges, which was intended to draw attention to cooperation and links between different communities and time periods. The programme included tours, lectures, educational activities and cultural events. Similarly, on 30 September, a workshop on fighting anti-semitism and hate speech took place in Vilnius. The workshop provided an arena for deeper discussion among the Fund Operators, project promoters and other entities within both EEA and Norway Grants and Donor countries on countering anti-semitism, radicalisation and extremism.


Download the new brochure from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on EEA and Norway Grants' Jewish cultural heritage initiatives

Read more about the Lithuanian 'Conservation and revitalisation of cultural and natural heritage' programme

Read more about the Lithuanian 'Promotion of diversity in culture and arts within European cultural heritage' programme

Read more about the EEA and Norway Grants to Lithuania