Last week we had a progress meeting at the Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, chaired by Jasa Markas Zingeris, the Director of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. The Assistant Director, Zigmas Vitkas, who has been overseeing our work at Poneriai and the Great Synagogue site, Kirk Wolfinger who is the executive director for the NOVA documentary being filmed, the director of the movie Owen Palmquist, Richard Freund from the University of Hartford, Jon Seligman from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Leslie Gotfrit, and of course Alastair McClymont and myself were there.
The museum is beautiful and well done, the conference room overlooks the City, and good coffee was served as always here in Lithuania. The gallery adjoining the conference room is introduced by a very moving Samuel Bak painting of the Vilna Ghetto. Bak, who was born in 1933 and only 9 when the Ghetto was closed off, survived the war and emigrated in 1948. Also in the gallery are the doors of the Holy Ark that held the Torah scrolls in the Vilnius Synagogue until its destruction in the war. The doors were recovered and hidden by Jews returning to Vilnius in 1944 or 1945.
The meeting progressed as one would expect. Our results were quickly summarized, and then the discussions ensued on what to excavate and who and how and when, how to display, how to preserve, and of course about the NOVA documentary, which will likely premier in 2017. It is very likely that archaeological excavations will follow up our geophysics, with the work to be led by the cultural ministry and supported by Israeli and American archaeologists and historians.
A small excavation is likely to occur this week at the Great Synagogue in the center of Vilnius, beneath one of our geophysical surveys. Leslie and I are hoping to sneak a peak after returning to Vilnius on Friday after a week of traveling in Lithuania and Latvia, and maybe get a few more bird's eye views of Vilnius from the drone.
Blogging by Paul Bauman