Rokiskis’ Synagogue Street – Images and Informational Sign


            A 10 minute and 31 second collection of “home movie” segments taken during a trip to Lithuania before the Second World War has been posted by Hebrew University’s Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at  Scenes of Rokiškis appear between 04:15 and 06:20.  The scenes include, among other things, a major market day on Independence Square, an outdoor wedding on the steps of the largest of the three houses of prayer on Synagogue Street (Sinagogų gatvė), a Lag Ba’Omer parade, the Tyzenhaus mansion, and a people bathing in Lake Vyžuona.  


            Three houses of prayer stood on the south side of Sinagogų gatvė.  When Lithuania was independent, they were painted, respectively, in the colors of the national flag, namely, red, green, and yellow.  The two-story Great Synagogue (“Graiseh Shul”), which stood at the corner of Sinagogų gatvė and Respublicos gatvė (Republic Street, formerly, Kamai Street), was painted red and was known as the red synagogue.  It was also known as the “Alte Shul” (the “old” shul).  All three were burned in July 1941.


            In 2015, Giedrius Kujelis, the assistant director and historian of the Rokiškis Regional Museum, made the following several “still” pictures from the video segments showing the Synagogue Street area.  Lithuanian architect Aurimas Širvys, a native of Obeliai / Abel, used the pictures to create three-dimensional images that were incorporated into an informational sign that was installed on Synagogue Street in September 2015.



syn still 1 

Still Image 1 – Synagogue Street view, looking west-southwest.  The Great Synagogue is on the left and the green synagogue is in the center background.  The people are gathering for a wedding.  A chuppah is seen in the middle of the picture.

syn still 2


Still Image 2 – Synagogue Street view, looking east-southeast toward Republic / Kamai Street.  The Great Synagogue is on right.  The building on the left once housed the Folksbank (Jewish People’s Bank) and was still standing in 2016.  A wooden building on the northwest corner of the intersection (off camera) was the home of Reb Betzalel Katz.



syn still 3

Still Image 3 – Synagogue Street view, with the yellow synagogue in the background.

            From the still images, Lithuanian architect Aurimas Širvys created these representations of the three synagogues for the informational sign that now stands on Synagogue Street.


great syn

The Great Synagogue – for the general community



syn green

The Green Synagogue – for community leaders


            syn yellow

The Yellow Synagogue – for scholars.
  It was also known as the “kleine” (small) shul.



            As noted above, in 2015, Giedrius Kujelis, the Rokiškis Regional Museum’s historian, and architect Aurimas Širvys began work to design an informational sign that would describe the three synagogues that stood on Synagogue Street until 1941.  The sign is written in Lithuanian, English, and Yiddish.  Among those assisting with this project were Remembering Rakisik Jewry, LLC, and its parent, Remembering Litvaks, Inc.; Linda Cantor, the chairman of the Rokiškis Special Interest Group of Jewish genealogists; and American author Ellen Cassedy, who led a group of volunteers from Vilnius University’s Yiddish Institute. 


            The sign was dedicated by Rokiškis Mayor Antanas Vagonis on September 6, 2015, which that year was the European Day of Jewish Culture.



                                                                                                                        Credit:  Philip S. Shapiro




Speech of Mayor Antanas Vagonis

Upon the Dedication of the Informational Stand

On Synagogue Street in Rokiškis, Lithuania, September 6, 2015

(English Translation)


            First of all, I would like to thank the coordinators of our [Rokiskis Regional] museum, who undertook this nice initiative.  As you know, the process of reviving Jewish symbols began a very long time ago.  And not long ago, when I myself was working for the municipal public works council, the sculptor, Albertas Jasiūnas, told me that he would need help in installing the memorial stone near the gates of the Jewish cemetery.  And I told him that we would help, that it would not be a problem, that we could do it quickly, and that there would be no charge at all.

            As you know, historically, and my advisor made some research, some time ago there was a large Jewish community [in this town], and the Jewish residents even outnumbered the Lithuanians.  

It is very well said that we need to revive historical things.  And today I want to touch upon the subject of bridges.  Bridges serve not only for remembering and showing these [cultural] features but those bridges should also serve to invite people to come back over these bridges.

I know that our ethnic groups have been put into confrontation, and not just for one year.  And for some things we should feel ashamed before your nation and some other nations.  And we are constantly being put into confrontation with the Russians, and with the Poles, and even with our neighbors the Latvians, let alone the Jews. 

We have to look at things the way they are now and think.  There are no bad peoples, maybe only bad leaders of those peoples.  It is not the fault of the Russians that they have such a leader as Putin, it is understood.  Neither is it the fault of the Latvians or the Jews that they have been singled out.  Indeed, every nation has an outstanding personality. 

            We are expressing our joy that you have not forgotten us.  And I want to say more:  Send a message to the whole world that if someone is longing for and would like to get back to their Motherland, we are looking forward to your coming back.   ….

            And I believe that, step by step, we have to come back.  And, on my behalf, I promise, that our people will treat all nations with respect – with great respect.

            And now, I thank you, all, and I thank everyone who worked to make this beautiful informational sign.


                                                                                                (Translated by Aldona Shapiro)

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