Historic Belarus Synagogue to Become Jewish Museum

Bykhov synagogue, exterior, 2004. Photo: Jewish Heritage Research Group

A ruined, 17th-century fortress synagogue in the town of Bykhov, in Belarus, about 100 miles east of Minsk, is set to be restored and become a Jewish museum. The Belarusian Telegraph Agency quoted Belarus Culture Minister Boris Svetlov as saying the first steps toward achieving this will take place this year.

 “This year we will start working on the establishment of the museum. We will lay a foundation and do the necessary paperwork,” the Svetlov told the news agency, according to a report filed in March

In a separate BTA article,  Igor Marzalyuk, head of the archaeology department of Kuleshov Mogilev State University described the upcoming restoration of the synagogue, saying that “Some conservation works will be done this year: the roof will be replaced and the exterior will be refurbished.”

He added that “The interior and museum exhibition will be the responsibility of the Jewish community.”

The synagogue, believed to date from 1630, is a fortress-style brick and masonry synagogue with arched windows, a squat tower and a massive, four-pillar Bimah.

Bykhov synagogue interior - bimah, 2004. Photo: Jewish Heritage Research Group

It is located in an architectural preserve on the territory of Bykhov Castle, in a fortified compound that also includes a former Catholic church.

Restoration of the synagogue is part of a nearly $800,000 general restoration and archaeological excavation project at the castle, part of the government program “Castles of Belarus” designed to run in 2012-2018.

According to the BTA, “There are plans to restore the towers of the castle, do the conservation of its fragments, and landscaping works on the adjacent territory.”

The  funding, it said,  will come from the central government budget (more than $103,000), the regional budget (more than $575,000) and the local budget (more than $115,000).

See also the JTA story, which notes that:

Only several thousand members of Belarus’ Jewish population of one million survived the Holocaust, according to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority. Bykhaw’s 1939 population census lists 2,295 Jews, or one fifth of the city’s population. Only a small fraction of the town’s Jews succeeded in fleeing the Nazis. The Jews of Bykhaw, which is also sometimes referred to as Bykhov, were murdered in two mass-murder operations in September 1941 and November 1941.




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