A dedicated programme to be envisaged for Jewish heritage management
Press release, 1 March 2017
Photo of the Office of the Seimas (author Olga Posaškova)
On 1 March 2017, Viktoras Pranckietis, Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, met with Faina Kukliansky, Chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, and Diana Varnaitė, Director of the Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture.
The meeting focused on the current state and management of the Jewish heritage. A proposal was made to earmark funding from the 2018 national budget for a dedicated Jewish heritage management programme. The country currently runs a dedicated programme for church conservation.
“We believe that increasing the funding would be an appropriate step forward. We shared our expectations with the Speaker of the Seimas. It would be beneficial to join our efforts with those of the heads of the Ministry of Culture by envisaging the establishment of a separate budget line for the preservation of the Jewish heritage, since it consists of facilities we should all be proud of as our heritage. They can raise the profile of Lithuania’s regions, making them more attractive for tourists,” Ms Varnaitė said.
She went on to say that the decision, coupled with a clear amount of funding allocated for management purposes, would facilitate communication between the executive power and the heritage conservation supporters.
“We attach great importance to the focus on heritage in Lithuania. Content adaptation is also important. Apart from restoration of heritage, its adaptation to educational, social, and cultural needs should also be ensured. The existence of individual dedicated programmes would be a clear sign of where the national priorities lie,” the Speaker of the Seimas said.
According to Ms Varnaitė, there are up to ten former Jewish places of worship in Lithuania. They are currently in a particularly poor or emergency state. Their restauration is funded under either heritage management programmes or various foreign funds.
This year, heritage management programmes received a total of EUR 4.1 million in state funding. This is supposed to cover the preservation of Lithuania’s cultural heritage, reimbursements, and restauration and management of the synagogues in Alytus and Žiežmariai as well as the Choral Synagogue and the Synagogue on Gėlių Street in Vilnius. According to the Director of the Department on Cultural Heritage, in comparison to other countries, Lithuania’s funding for the heritage management programme is low. It is therefore appropriate to establish dedicated programmes and envisage dedicated funding.
Ms Kukliansky, Chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, said that regional communities and municipalities had a crucial role to play in preserving former Jewish religious property, which should be seen as part and parcel of Lithuania’s cultural heritage.
“There are no surviving Jews in southern Lithuania. No Jewish communities exist in Suvalkija and Dzūkija regions any more. This is why the preservation of our cultural heritage should be shouldered by the local self-government. Heritage preservation requires daily efforts,” she said.
Dalia Vencevičienė, Senior Adviser to the Speaker of the Seimas, tel. +370 5 239 6016, mob. +370 698 42 071, e-mail: [email protected]