I.Reeves for Tsaytshrift

The stone building of the Great Choral Synagogue in Belarus, Slonim, was erected with the permission of Vladislav IV in 1642-1648. The Jewish community by that time numbered about 1000 people. At that time, the country was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

In 1795, Slonim became part of the Russian Empire, and in 1812, during the retreat of Napoleon’s troops, the Slonim battle took place between the Russian detachment of Major General E.I. Chaplitsa and the regiment of General Jan Konopka from the Napoleonic troops.

The map of the city archive shows that there was an old Jewish cemetery in the area near the synagogue. The synagogue  was damaged in a city fire in 1881. In total 75% of city buildings were damaged. Immediately after the fire, the community resumed collecting donations for the synagogue, but without permission from the authorities. The synagogue was sealed by the chief of police. In 1883, the residents of Slonim received permission from the governor to “bring the synagogue into proper form.” Extensions were added to the western and eastern facades. After that, the synagogue operated until 1940.

In 1915, during the First World War, the city was occupied by the Kaiser German troops and severely destroyed, in 1919 the city was occupied by the Poles, and in 1921 by Poland.
In 1939, Slonim and a number of other cities were part of the BSSR. The fascist invaders in Slonim in 1941-1942 created a ghetto for Jews and carried out terrible punitive operations, during which thousands of innocent people were killed. During World War II, the synagogue building was used as a warehouse for German agricultural machinery. The legendary Nyonya Tsirinsky hid weapons among the equipment and handed to the partisans. During communism, after World War II, the single-storey annexes were used as retail outlets, and the main hall was used as a warehouse for a furniture store.

The synagogue overlooking the downtown was the core venue of vibrant Jewish life that flourished in Slonim until 1939.

After the war the synagogue building was adapted for various economic needs. Since the mid-90s. twentieth century, the building of the synagogue is empty.

The topic of preserving the historical and cultural value – the synagogue building in Slonim has been discussed and studied by assigned expert organizations from the beginning of the 90s to the present.

In 2007, the building was awarded the state status of historical and cultural value.

In December 2020 the Foundation  prepared drawings to illustrate the potential of the Synagogue as a memorial to its past and its use as a cultural and educational centre. They are not intended to be a design, but rather to show what remains of the synagogue and indicate how repairs and improvements could be made.