This synagogue is one of the not many extant synagogues in Kaunas and the only one operating Kaunas synagogue at the moment. It`s building itself is an extraordinary site, which interests both the lovers of architecture and the ones, who search for Jewish history and culture in Kaunas. The rectangular plan synagogue with three entrances in the western part of the building architecturally reminds us of Christian prayer houses of the 19th-century. It is attributed to the reformed synagogues` type, where their exterior is more ornate than in traditional synagogues and European architectural styles are applied more consistently. At the same time, a spectacular dome of the synagogue gives it a more Eastern architectural vibe and stylistically distinguishes it from common European synagogues. The neo-Baroque exterior catches the eye of a passer-by and the traditional decor of the synagogue interior fascinates those who come inside. The interior is dominated by the wooden aron kodesh, there are many plant motifs and beautiful arched windows.
Ohel Jakov choral synagogue in Kaunas was built in 1871. It was personally financed by rich Kaunas merchant – Levin Minkovsky. Wooden outbuildings and Rabbi`s house were built next to the synagogue as well. At the time when the synagogue was built Jews constituted a little bit more than half of Kaunas citizens, and ten years after it has been built the synagogue has been passed on the Jewish community in Kaunas. It was not only a prayer house, but it functioned as a place for concerts of cantors and orchestra, so it`s religious function was partly complemented by the cultural function as well. Synagogue was open for the whole community, so eventually, the building had to be extended – it happened two times during the interwar period – in 1924 and in 1937.
During the interwar period, Jews constituted a huge part of the Kaunas population, so it is no surprise that there were more than twenty synagogues and Jewish prayer houses in the city. However, today there are only seven extant buildings of previous Jewish prayer houses and only one of them is still functioning as a synagogue – choral Ohel Jakov synagogue on E. Ožeškienė street. This synagogue has been damaged during the Second World War and neglected by the Soviet authorities during the later occupation of Lithuania. Only in 2001, it`s damaged dome has been rebuilt. Now, this synagogue is also a residence of Kaunas Jewish community.
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