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Elazar Nezdatny Appeal | Brit-Milah | The Lavabo House | Photographs


Realization of the Law
The Lavabo House at the Jewish Cemetery
The history of the Lavabo House construction
The Lavabo House In 1873 the management board of the St.Petersburg Jewish community concluded an agreement with the City Council for the plot of land for a Jewish cemetery. The Jewish community covered all the expenses for the cemetery encirclement with a substantial fence and construction of a building for washing of the dead and burial cervices. 

In 1873 - 74 a wooden two-storied praying house was built at the project of architect I. Shaposhnikov and a dwelling building for the guard and grave-diggers was constructed at the cemetery. The construction was covered with the funds raised by the subscription opened by the community management board. Those funds totaled 14 thousand roubles.

At the end of 1906 the cemetery management board headed by baron D.G.Ginzburg sent an inspection committee to the cemetery. The conclusion made by the committee characterized the conditions at the cemetery in the following way: "the praying house constructed 30 years ago is in such a shabby condition that it presents a direct danger in the event of a large flow of people "? 

In spring 1907 a committee for the development of projects of the buildings required at the cemetery was elected. The committee sent two of its members to Riga to observe the Lavabo House constructed at the local Jewish cemetery. In May 1907 the committee developed the conditions of the architect competition. 

Old picture10 architects took part in the competition. The committee which included academicians G.D.Grimm and V.A.Pokrovsky, professor V.A.Kosyakov, architects and designers O.R.Muntz and S.V.Belyayev unanimously declared the project of Y.G.Gevirtz the best one of all the projects presented at the competition. Polished up together with S.G.Ginger the project was passed to be carried out. The community management board approved "the construction of the planned communal monument edifices ". 

In September 1908 the foundation of the new praying house was laid. In 1909 under the supervision of Y.G.Gervitz, who took over the responsibilities of the cemetery architect, the house was roofed. The spiritual rabbi Katznelbogen observed the building and ensured that it suited the ritual requirements. 

In 1910 the construction of the Lavabo and Funeral House was concluded, the dome was covered with red copper and a boiler-room was constructed in the basement. Painting and decorating began. The simplicity and strictness of the forms, absence of the fancy decoration corresponded with the purpose of the building. The building was constructed in the oriental style. The new praying house together with the Choral synagogue formed unity of style of the Jewish cult buildings in St.Petersburg. In summer 1912 the construction was concluded. 

In the yard formed by the side arcades lawns were laid out, bushes and silver firtrees were planted. The total area of the construction exceeded 1050 sq.m. The useful space of the building came to 506 sq.m. The height was about 20 m., the length of the building was 52 m., the width - 38 m. The enfilades' length was 30m, height - 6m. Inside the Lavabo House there were three main rooms - the large Dome Room, where the burial services took place, the Lavabo room and a room where the visitors waited for the burial service to start. Several subsidiary rooms were present. 

The building was faced with gray granite, the Dome Room was plastered, and on the perimeter there were signs in Hebrew. Inside the room the two-storied balustrade was located. The side rooms were tiled; the main entrance was made in the form of an arcade. Embossed signs were created on the enfilades. 

Старая фотография c пилонами и воротами Simultaneously with the main building construction a lattice fence was mounted on six massive brick plastered pylons. 

On September 23rd 1912 (12 Tishrei 5673) the sanctification of the Lavabo House took place. The ceremonial ritual with prayers sang by the cantor and chorus was framed in the brochure published especially in honor of the event. On the two marble plates displayed in the entrance-hall of the Lavabo House there were two signs reminding of the event and enumerating the names of the construction committee members and donors, whose donations laid the basis of the construction monetary fund. The sign declared: "Laid on the 15th day of September 1908, sanctified on the 23rd day of September 1912 ". 

The Lavabo House was constructed under the supervision of the construction committee, chairmen - baron D.G.Ginzburg, M.A.Ginsburg, and members of the committee M.D.Varshavsky, A.A.Kaplun, and N.A.Kotler. Baron D.G.Ginzburg and court tailor A.A.Kaplun contributed the main part of the donations. 

In the pre-Revolutionary time the Lavabo House was used only for its proper purpose. Torah was not studied here; nevertheless it was also a meeting place, although on sad occasions. The dead was washed here. The relatives and friends gathered in the Dome Room and the cantor recited the traditional prayers. 

In the post-revolutionary years the chaos of the "old world" destruction enveloped the Jewish cemetery as well. Many burial-vaults were destroyed, the valuable monuments were removed, and the surrounding fence was pulled down. More than once hooligans committed outrages at the cemetery, several arsons of the Lavabo House took place?

Present History 

Столбы главных ворот сейчас In 1993 the Lavabo House at the Jewish cemetery was turned over to our Community (the Jewish Community of St.Petersburg) by the City Council. The evaluation report of the technical conditions of the building put together at the transfer among the other details noted that: 
  • Electricity, water supply, heating, canalization, connection were absent in the building
  • The general impression - desolation, dampness, mustiness
  • Plaster from arches and columns fell to the ground, steel framework striped, covered with corrosion products
  • the floor in the central room is damaged, walls grew damp, plaster is falling down
  • on the perimeter of the vault there are horizontal cracks
  • posts of the main entrance gates are unsafe, the bricklaying is demolishing
  • Maintenance is at the risk of life 
The first attempts to reconstruct the building were met with a series of barbarian fascist attacks. Thus, for instance, a vandalism act took place on the night of 13 - 14 Dec. 1996. The doors in the Lavabo House were broken open, bimah and the washing table were destroyed, taliths and tefilins found in the room were desecrated, the walls were covered with fascist symbols and anti-Semitic slogans and, to crown all, an arson was committed. As a result of the fire roof in the lateral wing of the building was burnt down completely, carved doors were burnt; the washing room was damaged etc. 
Свастика на стенахСгоревшие двериСгоревшая кровля
Inquiry into the criminal case instituted at the Community request resulted in nothing as usually. 

Община на боевом дежурстве Presently, in the times of active fascist vandals, the Community organized watches by the Lavabo House with its own resources. These days the Community members and volunteers joining them arrive for the 24-hour guard of the building and cemetery. "The guards " put on the warmest clothes for the night (there is no heating in the Lavabo House), arm themselves with what they have, many bring their dogs along. It seems that thanks to these guards new attacks were avoided. 

Presently the Community carries out urgent reconstruction and conservation of the building. The roof reconstruction had been concluded. The final reconstruction of the "warmth contour " (windows, doors) and electricity supply is scheduled for the nearest future. The St.Petersburg branch of The Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) offers special help and support in the building reconstruction. The Community is thankful to the RJC members and all the other donors who transferred funds and offered their skills and time for the reconstruction of the Lavabo House. 

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