Lithuania's Second Wind


by S. Olidort - VILNIUS, LITHUANIA

October 3, 2003

Last week, one hundred years since the Vilnius Choral synagogue first opened its doors on Rosh Hashana 1903, six hundred and fifty Jews poured into this magnificent sanctuary—the only remaining and functioning synagogue in all of Vilna—to hear the sounding of the shofar. An old Torah-scroll, recently discovered in a local antique shop, was restored and used for the occasion after a grand welcoming for the Torah several days before Rosh Hashana.

The last time hundreds of Jews prayed together in the synagogue for Rosh Hashana services, Vilna was a bastion of Jewish activity--its yeshivas, synagogues and study halls teeming with people. But that was more than 60 years ago, and the forces that conspired to destroy Jewish life here as elsewhere, emptied this synagogue of all Jewish prayer, leaving it desolate for decades.

The timing was propitious, observed Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, Chief Rabbi of Lithuania, and Chabad representative here since 1992. “On the eve of Rosh Hashana, this community was granted a new lease on life, reunited with an old Torah scroll, in the walls of this great synagogue once more.”

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