The synagogue of Grodno, the oldest functioning synagogue in the CIS and one of the most unusual and most beautiful synagogues in all of Europe still standing. This house of worship was built in the year 1578. The Rabbi of the city at that time, the well-known rabbinic authority Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe, who authored the book “HaLevushim”, commissioned the Italian architect, Santi Gucci Sante Guchi to plan the building. In 1899, a huge fire in the city damaged the synagogue and as a result the building was given a general renovation and additional wings were added, changing the outward appearance completely.
The synagogue was built in what was the Jewish Quarter of Grodno for hundreds of years and it is conjectured that earlier there was a wooden structure in the same location which functioned as a synagogue.
In the Synagogue there was a large congregation as well as a choir and cantor, who was the heart of the congregation. The building is awesome in its beauty, combining the Italian style architecture as well of other building styles. In its center is the central sanctuary, which is crowned with plaster embellishments of a unique character.
In the holocaust years, the synagogue building in the center of the ghetto, was used by the Nazis as a final gathering place for the Jews of the city, before they were taken by trainloads to the death camps.
Today the synagogue is being used for Shabbos and weekday services, for holiday gatherings, for classes and for a general meeting place.
The history of the building, its age and its beauty continue to draw many visitors, Jews and non-Jews alike, from Belarus and from throughout the world.
As a result of its advancing age and lack of upkeep, the structure and façade have suffered much deterioration- all facets of the building are in desperate need of renovation. Additionally, there is no heating system and it is very uncomfortable in the cold winter months. Presently, the least dilapidated areas are used, but as needs are expanding there is an obligation to renovate and make the whole building usable.
Recently, we had a certified engineering firm evaluate the structure of the building and we received certification to begin preserving and renovating the synagogue. We are hoping to start work on design and renovation, to renew the internal lay-out, in order to bring it back to a fit condition which will allow the continuation of intensive use of the building.
It is our plan to establish a community center to serve the Jews of the city and the general vicinity with all their jewish needs. The building will include a kitchen, and “soup kitchen” providing meals for the needy, a nursery school, library and computer room, Kosher restaurant, Mikvah, community offices, classrooms and meeting rooms. The building will be a home for all the Jews of Grodno, young and old alike.
In addition, we are planning to establish a museum, which will eternalize the Jewish history of Grodno, before the war and the thousands of Grodno Jews who were killed and were sent away from here to be killed.
The renovations are being partially sponsored by donations from the Rohr Family Fund, as well as local donators, and donations from Jews throughout the world, many with origins in Grodno.
For the photo gallery of the synagogue click here.