Bauska Memorial Synagogue Garden in Bauska, Latvia
For Yehudi “Gaf” Gaffen, CEO of Gafcon Inc., this Holocaust memorial is a legacy project. Bauska is a town in southern Latvia where Gaffen’s family’s roots stretch back to the 1750’s until in 1941, 830 Bauska Jews, including his grandparents and great-grandparents, were marched to the woods and shot by Nazi forces and their local collaborators.
“My ancestors lived in Latvia for many centuries and my lineage traces directly back to the people murdered in Bauska during Nazi occupation,” Gaffen said. “Working on this memorial with the people of Bauska has been an honor unlike any other project in my career and a deeply personal memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
The memorial garden was conceived as a monument in celebration of the Jewish community that once lived and thrived in the town. Gaffen led the fundraising and development process, along with his sister Beverly Gaffen Altman and Jehuda Feitelson, a former Bauska resident, concentration camp survivor, and a retired Doctor of Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Gaffen (far left) greets visitors at the Bauska Memorial dedication in October of 2017.
After years of commitment and work, their efforts were realized on October 15, 2017 when the opening of the Memorial Synagogue Garden took place at 35 Riga Street in Bauska, Latvia. The dedication event was organized by the Bauska Memorial Committee, the Bauska County Municipality, and the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia. Ceremony attendees included Ambassadors from the United States and Germany, political officials of Latvia, various foreign diplomats, historians, members of non-governmental organizations, the Jewish community, residents of Bauska, and the ancestors of Bauska Jews from Latvia, Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
The menorah and bimah sculptures at the Bauska Memorial Garden
Designed by Latvian sculptor Girts Burvis, Bauska Memorial Synagogue Garden is a sculpture garden featuring gabion walls outlining where the synagogue once stood, as wells as five gabion figures, as if coming out after a service. A gabion and metal sculptured menorah has been placed at the site where an aron kodesh was once located, while a symbolic bimah is standing in the center of the memorial. The bimah contains a brief history of Bauska Jews and the surnames of the families who perished in the Holocaust. The sculptures and walls were constructed with the original stones of the synagogue, which were dug out from the ground during excavation, a first for a Memorial in Latvia.
Building, Design and Construction Council and the publications “Latvian Construction” and “Latvian Architecture” present this national award with a deciding awards panel including members of state institutions, non-governmental organizations and design and development professionals.
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