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Diggers in Lithuania Unearth Complex That Housed Vilna Gaon’s Synagogue

The Vilna Gaon monument in the site of the Great Synagogue of Vilna The Vilna Gaon monument in the site of the Great Synagogue of Vilna (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Great Synagogue of Vilnius used to be a place of worship among one of the largest populations of Jews in Eastern Europe in the 18th-century. Located in Lithuania, this Jewish community was so large that it earned a nickname of “Lithuanian Jerusalem.” While the building was damaged after World War II, researchers now have uncovered an underground floor of the complex.

The Jewish complex is internationally significant because it used to be the center of one of Eastern Europe’s largest and most prominent Jewish communities. It was the base of the 18th-century rabbinical luminary Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, also known as the Vilna Gaon.

The complex and synagogue were razed in the 1950s after sustaining damage during World War II, and buried under earth atop of which a school was built.

The team of archaeologists at the synagogue, led by Richard Freund, a professor from the University of Hartford, used a geophysical surveying technique that enabled them to identify objects under the street without ruining infrastructure, the Baltic News Service reported.

At the digging site, researchers positioned large, fine screens, which the team uses to sift through excavated rubble. The structures unearthed so far appear to be staircases leading to underground floors.

Tags: Facts and Findings

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