SYNAGOGUE SQUARE MEMORIAL

Dedicated to the memory of the Jewish Community of Jurbarkas, Lithuania

The town of Jurbarkas, Yurburg in Yiddish, is a rather unusual place in the Lithuanian cultural and political landscape.

 

Unlike other towns and cities in Lithuania, the people of Jurbarkas are committed to preserve the history of their town where the Jewish people once lived and formed an integral part of the community playing a central role in the urban and financial development of the region.

 

Though there are no Jews living in Jurbarkas today, the Jewish cemetery of Yurburg has been restored by those who hold the memory of the town close to their hearts – the descendants of Yurburg, who never lived  in  this town but whose ancestors once did. Today the cemetery is preserved by the authorities, and this support is due to the strong involvement of the “Friends of the Yurburg Jewish Cemetery”composed of a group of descendants of Yurburg Jews and backed by a large group of local Jurbarkas residents

 

Recently the municipality approved renaming the junction of Kauno and Kranto streets in the town center – The Synagogue Square.

This square, adjacent to the historical location of Yurburg's two major Synagogues, was chosen as the site for a memorial dedicated to the Jewish Community of Yurburg. In April 2016, mayor Skirmantas Mockevicius asked H.E. Mr. Amir Maimon, the Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Republic of Lithuania to contact Israeli sculptor David Zundelovitch and his creative group CAN New Artists Collegium with a request to design and create the future memorial.

Jurbarkas (Yurburg) Wooden Synagogue 1790-1941

Image courtesy - Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Wing of Jewish Art and Life Collection at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Synagogue Square, Jurbarkas, Lithuania

Location of the future memorial

Creative Team - Israel

 

David Zundelovitch, sculptor, born in Vilnius, Lithuania. Made Aliyah in 1990. He works and teaches sculpture for more than 40 years. Founder and director of CAN New Artists Collegium.

 

Gregory Zundelovitch, art director, photographer and graphic designer.

Born in Vilnius, Lithuania, resides in Ramat-Gan, Israel. Specializes in producing visual projects that combine photography, video art, scenography with innovative graphic design.

 

Anna Zundelovitch, architect and designer.

Born in Vilnius, Lithuania, resides in Ramat Gan, Israel. Owns an independent practice in the field of interior and product design operating in Israel, Lithuania and USA.

 

The three of them represent CAN New Artists Collegium in this project. 

The creative team of CAN New Artists Collegium at the future memorial site

Mayor S. Mockevicius signing the Synagogue Square Memorial concept model during the project's first public presentation. Jurbarkas, October 2016

Project Initiating Team – Jurbarkas, Lithuania

 

Skirmantas Mockevicius, lawyer, former regional IRS agency manager and a violinist.

Born in Jurbarkas area. Completed his MBA studies in Vilnius. Elected in 2015 as mayor of Jurbarkas and its regional municipality.

Initiator of the Synagogue Square Memorial Project.

 

Grazina Gadliauskiene, Jurbarkas town architect. Completed her studies in Vilnius Technical Institute. Promotes collaborations with various institutions to promote modern architectural solutions for Lithuania's rural regions. Assigned as the Synagogue Square Memorial Project chief architect on the Lithuanian part.

 

Rasa Grybaite, visual artist. Grandaughter of Lithuania's first monumental sculptor Vincas Grybas, who was executed by the Nazis together with the heads of the Jewish community at the first 'action' in town.

Director of Vincas Grybas museum in Jurbarkas and a prominent cultural activists in town. In charge of the communal projects and educational programs for the local youth regarding Synagogue Square Memorial Project.

Synagogue Square Memorial model - top view

A better definition of this monumental sculpture is a “sculptural space” rather than a statue in a square, since the impact of this memorial is set to change the town's landscape, its regional and nationwide significance and suggest a new vision to Memorial projects in general.

 

The monument will consist of many symbols that will demonstrate the historical connection of the Jewish community and the town.

 

The general layout is based on the image of the Neman River, near which the city stands.

The stone "river waves" that form the monument are covered with the surnames of all Jewish families that lived in Jurbarkas throughout the ages. The surnames are written in both English and Yiddish – their original transcription.

 

In addition, the professions and occupations of the Jews of Yurburg will be inscribed in the Lithuanian language, to accent the fact that the Jewish residents of this town were living here in the past were just as the Lithuanian residents living here in the past and today.

The central axis that divides the whole square is oriented towards Jerusalem, the most obvious common principal to both Jews and Christians. The granite axis will carry the inscription "If I forget thee, o Jerusalem" and towards its end the names of the local Righteous Among the Nations will appear. To us, the creators of this memorial, it is important that every person of Jurbarkas and every visitor should know the names of the real heroes of this town.

The importance of the “Synagogue Square Memorial” transcends the Jewish themed memorial narrative.

 

First of all, this memorial is not about the Holocaust tragedy, this monument is dedicated to many generations of the Jewish people living in this town and the tragic end of this community.

 

Also, this monument is dedicated to those who saved Jews, and thus this memorial is tightly connected to the Litvak history as a whole. It is the first memorial of such kind.

 

Synagogue Square Memorial model

The center of the monument is accented by an elevated platform on which a composition of basalt columns create a form that resembles the old wooden synagogue. The major synagogue of Jurbarkas was an object of pride for the Yurburg community. It stood tall untill late summer of 1941. The wooden synagogue was destroyed by Nazi orders shortly after they invaded the town.

Sculptor David Zundelovitch with the Synagogue Square Memorial model

This is an unprecedented initiative to create such a significant mark that comes from the Lithuanian residents and the official authorities in Lithuania.

Jurbarkas wants to preserve and remember its true  history.

To change the "textbook" narrative where the Jewish legacy in Lithuania is neglected, erased and forgotten.

This project showcases a new era in Lithuania.

Where the people of a country that is highly associated with the "Holocaust" to every Jew stand strong together, stating "We shall not forget".

Where Lithuanians no longer regard their Jewish neighbors as foreigners, but as a part of their own national identity. And to us, the creators of this project, it presents a unique window of opportunity to share our bold vision of a shared history for both the Jewish and Lithuanian people, where both sides look to each other as partners rather than as victims and persecutors.

 

This memorial creates a multilayered impact in terms of its informational, emotional and artistic significance, and these subjects combined create a single sculptural space rather than a sculpture in a certain location, which also present an innovative approach in the field of memorial design.

We believe that the Jewish Community of Jurbarkas is worthy of a respectful and modern memorial that will serve as a symbol of its culture and legacy. We believe that this project will mark an additional - significant milestone tightening the relations between Lithuania and Israel and between Litvaks and Lithuanias.

This project is a nonprofit operation on CAN New Artists Collegium part, and the project concept idea is a donation of the Zundelovitch family to the town, to commemorate its forefathers, members of the Yurburg Jewish Community.

 

Starting May 2017 this project is supported by an two international Non Profit Organizations. 

In Israel our team collaborates with Outset Israel.

Outset Contemporary Art Fund is a philanthropic organisation dedicated to supporting new art by bringing private funding from its patrons, partners and trustees to public museums and art projects.

Since its inception in 2003 the foundation has supported a range of projects at leading visual arts institutions, from exhibitions, education and residency programmes to publications and capital campaigns. Outset has 8 chapters in England, Germany, India, Israel, the Netherlands, Greece, Scotland and the United States.

In the US, the project is supproted by the "Friends of the Yurburg Jewish Cemetery" that was formed in 2005 as a US not-for-profit organization dedicated to the restoration and upkeep of the cemetery of their ancestors from Jurbarkas (Yurburg), Lithuania. 

It also was established to preserve the memory of the Yurburg Jewish Community.

We urge you to support this project, since it is the first time that the local authorities in Lithuania will commemorate the whole community of Jewish residents thus acknowledging the real history of the town, a history where Jews played an integral role

The estimated budget to complete the memorial is about 180,000€ ($200,000 or £160,000)

Project stages - Completed by now:

• Working drawings are ready for the local authorities approval.

• All of the required works have been priced and the project budget is evaluated.

• An extensive research to find and catalogue the surnames of the Jewish Community of Jurbarkas over the years is being conducted and translation of almost 2000 surnames will be completed in September 2017

• Order of the stone elements for the project has been completed in July 2017, thanks to the generous contributions of this project supporters in Israel and USA

 

• Fundraising status - by the end of July 2017 the total amount of contributions cover 25% of the Synagogue Square Memorial estimated budget.

Download Contribution Form - Israeli supporters

Download Contribution Form - US supporters

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