JTA — The government of Belarus announced plans to renovate one of the country’s oldest synagogues and turn it into a Jewish museum.
The museum will be housed this year inside the restored ruins of the main synagogue in Bykhaw, a town located some 150 miles east of Minsk, Belarus’ minister of culture, Boris Svetlov, told the Belarusian Telegraph Agency.
The synagogue of Bykhaw, a tall, square building with three arched windows in each façade and a tower in one of its corners, is part of Bykhovsky Castle – a fortress in the east of the country. The restoration of the 17th century synagogue and the museum’s establishment is part of a $1 million renovation project of the castle complex initiated this year.
Only several thousand members of Belarus’ Jewish population of one million survived the Holocaust, according to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority. Bykhaw’s 1939 population census lists 2,295 Jews, or one fifth of the city’s population. Only a small fraction of the town’s Jews succeeded in fleeing the Nazis. The Jews of Bykhaw, which is also sometimes referred to as Bykhov, were murdered in two mass-murder operations in September 1941 and November 1941.
Belarus has 45,000 Jews, according to the European Jewish Congress.