Like most large Jewish communities of pre-World War II Eastern Europe, that of Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania) consisted of a large main synagogue in a courtyard surrounded by smaller synagogues. A group of archaeologists, using cutting-edge technology, have now excavated part of the complex:
An underground floor of a building belonging to the complex that housed the 18th-century synagogue was exposed for the first time since 1957 earlier this month. . . .
“We don’t know yet what exactly was uncovered because analysis will be done on it in the following months,” Markas Zingeris, the director of the Vilna Gaon State Museum, said.
The Jewish complex is internationally significant because it used to be the center of one of Eastern Europe’s largest and most prominent Jewish communities. It was the home of the 18th-century rabbinic luminary Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, also known as the Vilna Gaon.
The complex and synagogue were razed in the 1950s after sustaining damage during World War II, and buried under earth atop of which a school was built. . . .
“[T]he Vilna Gaon actually didn’t pray in the Great Synagogue, but rather in one of the smaller synagogues around the main one,” Zingeris said.