Things to do in Vilnius

Synagogues in Vilnius - what is so confusing about them?

March 16, 2019
VilniusFreeTour
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You may have heard that Vilnius is a city with around 30 churches located in the Old town. But not only the Christian churches exist. It is also possible to find Jewish synagogues in Vilnius and sometimes even the locals are a little confused about them.

Just before the WW2 there were more than 100 synagogues and Jewish prayer houses in the city. In Judaism a synagogue is not necessarily something big, it actually may be just a room in someone’s apartment. The word synagogue comes from Greek (synagōgē) and means gathering. If at least 10 adult men (this required minimum number is called minyan in Hebrew) gather, they can run the public prayer. The city of Vilnius before the WW2 was full of this kind of prayer houses.

The Greater synagogue of Vilnius

If you try to find out more about the Jewish houses of worship in Vilnius today, the first thing you will probably find is the Greater synagogue of Vilnius – a building that could fit around 600 people inside. The Greater synagogue was built at the beginning of 17th century and had been the heart of the religious Jewish life until the WW2. Unfortunately, it was damaged during the war and was demolished by the Soviets in 1957. What you can find now is only this white-brick school, which was built on the top of the same place where the synagogue used to be and an info display reminding about the Greater synagogue: 

              

             The place where the Greater synagogue used to be (address is Vokiečių str 13A or it may be easier to find it from the Jewish street)

The Choral synagogue

After people find out the sad story of the Greater synagogue, they sometimes misunderstand and do not get to know that there is still a synagogue (called the Choral synagogue) which serves for the needs of the local Jewish community in Vilnius. It is a building from 1903 which is unique not only because of its’ exotic interior but also it surprisingly survived the WW2! Nowadays it is the only active synagogue in Vilnius which helps to learn more about both - the history of the Jews in Vilnius, and how the Jewish community lives today. The synagogue is normally opened everyday from 10 till 14 o’clock (except Shabbat - Saturday) and the entrance costs 1 EUR. You just need to press the bell button on the blue gate and you will buy the ticket inside. 

If you want to learn more about the synagogues in Vilnius or the Jewish history in general, you are welcome to join the Jewish tour with a local guide every Friday and Sunday at 10:00 o’clock. We are meeting at the Town hall and the ticket costs 10eur.

                               

                    The Choral synagogue in Vilnius (address Pylimo str 39) 

If you want to learn more about the synagogues in Vilnius or the Jewish history in general, you are welcome to join the Jewish tour with a local guide every Friday and Sunday at 10:00 o’clock. We are meeting at the Town hall and the ticket costs 10 EUR/person.

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