White Synagogue of Joniskis. Photo by Vilensija – Wikipedia

The town of Joniskis is quite old, dating back to the 16th century. The Jewish presence in Joniskis dates back to the 18th century. They lived mainly around the main synagogues.

Before the Shoah, the town’s Jewish population represented almost half of its inhabitants. The vast majority were massacred, as in the rest of the country. There are no Jews left in Joniskis today, but the small community of Siauliai took part in the re-inauguration of its synagogues.

Two synagogues dating from the 19th century stand side by side in the centre of the town, named for their colour.

The white synagogue was built in 1823. It also served as a Jewish school. The red synagogue was built in 1865. During the Soviet era, it was transformed into a residential and youth centre.

Red Synagogue of Joniskis. Photo by Vilensija – Wikipedia

The complex formed by the two synagogues was placed under the patronage of the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture in 1970. Restoration was undertaken following the country’s independence at the end of the 1990s.

Severely damaged by storms in 2004 and 2007, the destroyed walls were rebuilt with the help of European institutions and Norway, in partnership with the local authorities.

Since 2014, the red synagogue has been used as a cultural centre. The white synagogue also benefited from European aid to be restored in 2017.

Sources : JTA