The government of Lithuania asked Israeli President Shimon Peres to head the international advisory board for the restoration of the Vilnius Great Synagogue.
“The [restoration] project is an important part of the effort to both preserve and restore Vilnius’ Jewish heritage, and I think that President Peres could bring valuable guidance and insight to our project,” Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas said, according to the Baltic Review news site.
The comprehensive restoration and construction project could be completed as early as 2017, according to the May 21 report.
The offer came during a visit to Israel this week by Zuokas and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius, in which they met with Peres.
If Peres agrees, he would join Lithuania’s former president Valdas Adamkus, current Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius, and world-renowned architect Daniel Liebeskind, who are all currently members of the board. The Great Synagogue in Vilnius was one of the primary icons of Lithuanian and Eastern European Jewish culture before it was ruined during World War II and later demolished in the 1950s. From the 16th through the 20th centuries, it was the best-known synagogue in Central Europe.
As a part of Vilnius’ Jewish quarter, the Great Synagogue also was surrounded by other important centers of Jewish culture, such as the home of the Gaon of Vilnius, the honorific title accorded to influential Jewish sage and philosopher Rabbi Eliah Ben-Salomon.