Raising funds through charity exhibition

Lost heritage of Belarus’ Jewish culture on display at exhibition of photography and painting in Grodno

By Tatiana Vishnevskaya

Lost heritage of Belarus’ Jewish culture on display at exhibition of photography and painting in Grodno

The Synagogues of Belarus exhibition features more than 50 sacred Jewish architectural sites, in photographs and paintings. Black-and-white photos by Polish Krzysztof Bielawski and Agata Maksimowska recently toured Belarus and are now being showcased at Grodno’s Big Choral Synagogue: one of only a handful still welcoming the Faithful. The synagogue is also exhibiting paintings by Minsk artist Anatoly Nalivayev, from the 1950-60s; his architectural landscapes have photographic precision, recreating monuments of Jewish culture, and are accompanied by historical footnotes.

The photographs and paintings depict synagogues once operational in Western Belarus: most are lost while many are in decline. Some buildings are in better shape — such as those in Ivye, Svisloch, Slonim, Oshmyany, Indura, Bobruisk, Brest and Mogilev. Many were masterpieces of architecture in wood and stone. The Russian Drama Theatre in Minsk is a former synagogue.

Boris Kvyatkovsky, the Chairman of the Board of the Grodno Jewish Religious Society, tells us, “Every Jewish town, and there were many in Belarus before the war, had one to two synagogues. Today, these buildings could be restored and used as museums, exhibition halls and cultural centres. For example, Slonim’s 17th century synagogue, in the centre, is in relatively good shape, and has interesting stucco and frescoes. It was once used to store furniture but is now closed. It could house a branch of the local history museum. Of course, Jewish communities are few in Belarus, so this goal is very difficult to achieve.”

The Synagogues of Belarus exhibition has been organised jointly by Jewish history museums in Poland and the Grodno Region, to raise money to restore Grodno synagogue.
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