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The first synagogue's stone building was constructed at the end of the 16th century thanks to the chief rabbi, Mardekhay Yaffe. He invited Santi Gucci, a famous architect from Italy, to build a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter. But the synagogue was soon destroyed by a fire. Later, on the same place a new synagogue was erected. It existed for 3 centuries but was also destroyed in flames. A modern building of the synagogue in an eclectic style was a project of Ilya Frunkin and was built in the beginning of the 20th century. According to historians, it includes the remained parts of the very first building.
Jews have always played a prominent role in the life of Hrodna. The town was one of the Jewish intellectual capitals in Europe. Unfortunately, the Great Synagogue of Hrodna was closed right after the establishment of Soviet authority. During the Second World War, it was looted and damaged by bullets and shells. The synagogue became a tragic place for temporary detention before sending Jews to the concentration camps. Before the War there were more than 29 thousands Jews, and only around 200 people survived. The Nazis declared Hrodna free from Jews in March 1943. The Great Horal synagogue was not repaired after the war. Soviet government arranged a warehouse and industrial workshops in the building. Only in the early 1990-s the synagogue's building was returned to the Hrodna Jewish community. Now the building is being reconstructed. Synagogue is open for visitors.
The synagogue consists of two wings: a ceremonial hall and a three-stored building. The interiors of the synagogue are decorated with the gothic-style ornaments. There is a big prayer hall where the choirs used to sing. That’s why the synagogue has the name of the Choral one. In the center of the main hall there is a bimah with a special table on it for public readings of the Torah. One interesting fact is a unique heating system that the Great Choral Synagogue used to have. There were also several furnaces under the floor, which were intense enough to warm the floor and walls of the building. Unfortunately, this system was destroyed during the German occupation.
Photo: Nastia Quende
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