Baltics' oldest synagogue reopens in Ludza

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The Great Synagogue of Ludza in Latvia's east is a unique Jewish heritage site. The wooden building is at least 200 years old and is to be unveiled following a restoration lasting over a year, reported Latvian Radio Thursday.

The synagogue houses several exhibitions about the life of Jews in Ludza, along with an exhibition featuring works by documentary director Herz Frank and his father, the pre-World War II Ludza photographer Wulf Frank. 

The Great Synagogue of Ludza was granted the status of national monument in 2013. It's located in the historical center of the city and you can see its bright red facade from the nearby lake.

Entering the freshly renovated synagogue, a faint odor of paint is still in the air. The premises look simple, even everyday, however the true riches of the place lie in its history.

"This is the main space of the synagogue, where men used to pray," said Valērijs Dzevaltovskis, an expert at the Ludza Museum, leading Latvian Radio through the synagogue. 

"At the higher level of the room we can see its old ornament. The ceiling is preserved with both the authentic color and the authentic look. You can see that the ceiling was taped with newspapers, of which a few fragments have been left there intentionally," said Dzevaltovskis.

The Great Synagogue of Ludza is the oldest synagogue in the Baltics. During its 200-year lifespan it has been rebuilt several times, survived two fires and miraculously remained intact during the second world war. Of the five synagogues of Ludza, this is the only one still standing.

Currently the museum houses a total of four exhibitions dedicated to the history of the local Jewish community.

The former library of the synagogue, located on the ground floor, features an exhibit dedicated to the Latvian-Israeli documentary director Herz Frank and his father.

While the former women’s gallery houses an exhibition on the history of the Ludza Jewish community, dating back to 18th century, and the Holocaust.

The restoration cost more than €400,000, with bulk of the funding obtained from the EEA Grants/Norway Grants program. Full details of the project in English can be read HERE.

The Great Synagogue will be unveiled on Thursday afternoon with visits from the Israeli ambassador and other dignitaries.


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