Hasidic kloiz in Kaunas


The extant building of Chasidic kloiz in Kaunas reminds us of many differences in the Kaunas Jewish community before the Second World War. Also, this place is a rare historical site of rather marginal Chasidic community in Kaunas.

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In 1858 the government of the Russian Empire for the first time in Kaunas history issued an order, which enabled Jews to built houses anywhere in the city. So, due to the expanded Jewish living space in Kaunas, there was a need to built more religious or communal buildings. In the 1850s-1860s opened the first synagogues of traditional Judaism, and the first Chasidic kloiz was built only in 1880. As Chasidism was oriented towards the poor, it is reflected in the humble design of the prayer house – Neo-Renaissance style facade in the Western part of the building had only small transformations and kept its original form to this day. The unusual layout of the kloiz is not based on Chasidic wish to rebel against traditional Judaism – it is only a practical matter because the building stands on the crossroads.


Today the former Chasidic kloiz building stands on the Žaliakalnis hillside, on the same crossroads between two streets – Gimnazija str. 6/Antanas Mackevičius str. 2, and at the same time it is on the crossroads between Kaunas Oldtown and Žaliakalnis district. However, the building lost its religious purpose – at the moment there is an art studio. During the Soviet occupation, it was turned into a laboratory, but it did not last for long, so the building was transferred to the Kaunas department of the Vilnius art academy (strangely, the same thing happened with the Butchers` synagogue building in Kaunas). Although the academy did not use this building during the Soviet period, after Lithuania regained independence Vilnius art academy decided to turn this building into a sculpture study – there are still visible remnants of kloiz interior inside the study.


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