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Archeologist have found one of the most important parts of the Great Synagogue of Vilnius, the bimah – a raised central platform for Torah readings, the Jewish Community of Lithuania said on Thursday.
Unearthed fragments of Vilnius Great Synagogue
© DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

Installed in the XVIII century, the green-grown baroque-style Bimah was found under a former school which was built by the Soviets on top of the demolished synagogue in the 50s.

"The bimah at the Great Synagogue site was discovered directly under the Soviet-era school built over the site in the 50s," the statement reads.

The two-step baroque-style Bimah had four Tuscany-style and eight Corinthian-style columns, and parts of these columns were also found during the excavation work.

Earlier, the archeologists also uncovered parts of the mikveh, or ritual bath, complex on the northern side of the site. Digging revealed multi-colored floor tiles and green oven tiles. It is believed to be a male mikveh based on historical documents.

The Great Synagogue of Vilnius was one of the most important Jewish centers from the late XVI century until WWII.

The Great Synagogue of Vilnius was built in 1633 on the foundations of an older 16th-century synagogue. The Nazis burnt the synagogue, and its remains were flattened and a school was built on top of it in the 1950s.

Research work at the synagogue has been taking place since 2011 is partly-funded by a good-will foundation where Lithuania transfers compensation for nationalized assets of Jewish religious communities.

The work is being carried out by an international team of archaeologists from the USA, Canada, Lithuania and Israel.

Lithuania has been holding discussions for several years now on how to commemorate the synagogue, with proposals ranging from exhibiting uncovered fragments under a glass to rebuilding the synagogue and opening a museum.

The school building was vacated last year, and Vilnius authorities pledge that tending to the territory will start in 2020, and until then they plan to lease the building for creative workshops.

There's only one synagogue in Vilnius now.

Over 200,000 Jews lived in Lithuania before WWII but over 90 percent of them were killed during Lithuania's occupation.

BNS
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