Volozhin Yeshiva was constructed between 1803 and 1806 and is an important touchstone for the origins of European yeshivas and advanced Torah study. Due to the difficulties facing Jewish communities in the region in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the yeshiva was continually shut down by the authorities, until it was closed permanently in 1939. The building was used as a stable for German soldiers during World War II and was converted into a canteen in the 1950s and a cookery in the 1970s, until it was finally returned to the Jewish community of Belarus in 1989.
How We Helped
In 2008 World Monuments Fund supported various projects at the site, including archival research into the history of the building and an architectural and technical appraisal of the structure. The conditions assessment work, completed at the end of 2009, determined that the façade had survived relatively unchanged over the years, although minor alterations had been made and certain decorative elements were missing. Based on the results of the assessment, should restoration be undertaken, it would be possible to restore the original dimensions of the windows on the basement floor, replace missing decorative elements, restore the main entry to its original dimensions, paint the façade in the original ochre color, and restore and paint the chimney. The technical appraisal revealed that many of the walls had cracks and that the iron-concrete separation blocks between the basement and first floor have technical problems. Sections of the walls need to be replaced with new bricks and partial replacement of the bridging between the basement and first floor is required to reinforce the iron-concrete separation blocks. In addition, the exterior walls of the building need to be re-pointed to protect the building from water damage.
Why It Matters
Volozhin Yeshiva paved the way for widespread Torah study in Europe. It stands as an important cultural and architectural landmark in the city of Volozhin and represents an early example of Torah study practices that have now spread around the world. Although prior to the restoration the building served as a deli and housed a temporary exhibit about the history of the yeshiva, it is hoped that the building can reopen as a yeshiva once the renovation is completed.