Last week on a short vacation, Corrie and I visited the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius with the kids. The Choral Synagogue is currently the only synagogue in Vilnius; before WWII, there were over 100 synagogues.
As you can see from the photo, the text above the entrance reads:
כי ביתי בית תפלה יקרא לכל העמים
“My house will be called ‘a house of prayer’ for all the nations” (Isa 56:7).
The synagogue itself was built in 1903; I don’t know when exactly these words were chosen as the superscription. The connotation certainly changes depending on when this superscription was added–for example, in 1930, when the Jews were a thriving, integral part of one of Lithuania’s most diverse cities; or post-1945, after the Nazis and their collaborators had killed about 200,000 Jews in Lithuania–more than 90% of the Jewish population.
Written in Hebrew, these words are unintelligible to most Lithuanians, Poles, Belarussians and Russians who walk by (or take the bus–several lines pass right by the synagogue many times each day).