Memorial to Jewish community unveiled in Lithuanian town

‘The monument is dedicated to many generations of the Jewish people [who lived] in this town,’ says world-renowned Israeli sculptor David Zundelovich

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July 22, 2019 05:30
2 minute read.
Memorial to Jewish community unveiled in Lithuanian town

The unveiling ceremony of the Synagogue Square Memorial, which commemorates the Jewish community of Jurbarkas in Lithuania.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

A memorial commemorating the extinct Jewish community of Jurbarkas in western Lithuania was dedicated this weekend.


World-renowned Israeli designer and sculptor David Zundelovich said his Synagogue Square Memorial “is dedicated to [the] many generations of the Jewish people [who lived] 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,” he said in a statement. “It is the first memorial of its kind. I am happy that we have completed the memorial, with the help of so many good-willed people.”


Jews settled in Jurbarkas during the 17th century. By 1790, the town was home to over 2,500 Jews and boasted a wooden shul and a cemetery, both believed to be among the oldest in the region.


By the late 19th and early 20th Century, the community was thriving with schools, synagogues and businesses, with Jews making up between 32% and 43% of the town’s population over the decades. 


Jurbarkas’s Jewish community came to a tragic end, along with hundreds of years of Jewish history, when the Nazis invaded Lithuania in June 1941.


Forced to destroy their own shul by the Lithuanian collaborators, the Jews of the town were later killed systematically over a short period of time, with very few of the town’s Jews surviving.


Prior to World War II, Jews from the town did immigrate to several countries including Mandate Palestine, South Africa and the United States.


Jurbarkas Mayor Skirmantas Mockevicius asked Israel’s Ambassador to Lithuania, Amir Maimon, to contact Zundelovich and his creative group CAN (New Artists Collegium) with a request to design and create the memorial.


With the help of the Israeli Embassy in Vilnius and people all across the world, the team completed the project.


According to the statement, David, Greg and Anna Zundelovich, together with the creative team of CAN, decided “to depict history creating a unique project to commemorate the wooden synagogue, names and professions of Jewish people and Lithuanians who had courage to save their Jewish neighbors during World War II.”


The monument has been described “as a sculptural space rather than a statue in a square,” with the aim of this memorial being set “to change the town’s landscape.”


It consists of numerous symbols that demonstrate the historical connection of the Jewish community and Jurbarkas.


The memorial’s structure is also based on the Nemunas (Neman) River, translated as “The River of Memory,” which is located close to the town. The stone “river waves” that form the monument are covered with almost 2,000 surnames of all the Jewish families that lived in Jurbarkas throughout the ages.


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