Poland: Commemorative Marker Installed on former Krasnik Synagogue
(ISJM) On May 4, 2009, an inscribed memorial marker was dedicated in Krasnik, Poland (located south of Lublin). The tablet is attached to the outer wall of the former synagogue in Krasnik and commemorates the Jews of Krasnik who were victims of the Holocaust. The memorial was financed by the Friends of Krasnik Society of France. On the day of the dedication ceremony students of the local Middle School No.1 met with young Jews from England. Together, they toured former Jewish sites in Krasnik and helped to clean the local Jewish cemetery. Both events were organized by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.
For photos of the dedication ceremony click here
Since 2007, the Foundation has been developing a project of revitalization of the historic synagogue complex [click here for more photos]. The municipal government and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage are lead partners in this effort. The Foundation is the owner of both Krasnik synagogues in the complex: the larger, 17th century Baroque style building that still contains fragments of polychrome decoration inside, and a smaller synagogue, called “the Talmudic house”, probably built in the 19th century.
To read more about he Jewish history and sites of Krasnik download the brochure Krasnik: The Chassidic Route.
According to the Foundation, plans call for the smaller synagogue building to host a modern multimedia library (a library and a lecture room), joined with the multimedia Museum of Jews of Krasnik and the Krasnik Area. The larger building will perform multiple functions: it will host a center for the local culture-oriented non-governmental organizations, and a grand hall for concerts, conferences and exhibitions. One of the women’s courtyards (second floor of the larger synagogue), will serve as a workshop room for art courses.
Polish Cemetery Expert Jan Jagielski Awarded Irena Sendler Memorial Award by the Taube Foundation.
Poland: New Monuments erected in Gdansk on Anniversary of Kinderstransport
Poland: Road Construction on Polish Cemetery Protested
Publication: Big New Book on Fate of Polish Jewish Sites (1944-1966)
More on Presidents and Synagogues, this Time in Poland
By Samuel D. Gruber
ISJM, January 4, 2009
The JTA reported on Dec 21, 2009 that Polish president Lech Kaczynski visiting the Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw in December. "The president, the first sitting Polish president to visit a synagogue in more than 60 years, lit the first candle for Chanukah in a silver menorah. During the service, the congregation recited a prayer for the 90th anniversary of Poland's independence. The prayer was written by the rabbi of Krakow, Boaz Pash, according to Polish Radio. He was joined in its recitation by the chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich."
I'm actually surprised that he is the first Polish president to do so. Meanwhile, the synagogue is getting a facelift - stone, brick, plaster on the exterior are being entirely restored. I've gotten conflicting accounts about who is paying for this - whether it is the Jewish Community of Warsaw or the City of Warsaw. Most likely, it is a combination; the project being by the Community with a grant from the City since the synagogue is a designated and protected historic site.
Write in if you have more information.
Zuromin Cemetery to be Enclosed
ISJM, December 1, 2008
The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland signed an agreement with the Zuromin Cemetery Restoration Project (USA) for the renovation of the cemetery in Zuromin (mazowieckie province). The project includes building of a fence around the cemetery and cleaning works on its grounds. Works will begin in April 2009. See a digital representation of the new fence.
Sukkah from Szydłowiec Discovered and Restored
ISJM, October 23, 2008
Just in time for this year's celebration of the Sukkot holiday, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews – still in the planning and construction phase – announced in its Newsletter that a sukkah dating from around 1920 discovered last year in the town of Szydłowiec on the porch of the house at 3 Garbarska Street has been dismantled, removed and is in restoration by conservators from the Radom Regional Museum.
The Sukkah was disassembled into its 240 original wooden parts for conservation and restoration. Monika and Norbert Bekiel, who own the house to which the sukkah was attached (remodeled into a porch) donated the structure to the Museum. Until the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is constructed, the sukkah will be kept at the Radom Area Countryside Museum.
Before World War II, the house where the sukkah was found belonged to Nuta Ajzenberg, who owned a local tannery. He was one of very few rich Jews in Szydłowiec. Next to his house Ajzenberg built a small synagogue used by his family and employees.
The donor, Monika Lukomska-Bekiel is reported as saying: "I am a teacher and I consider it my duty to teach the history and culture of Polish Jews. I know that the memory of the cultural and spiritual heritage shapes our national identity. After all, the cultural heritage of Polish Jews is also our heritage, their history is also our history".
See photos of the dismantling of the sukkah here
Read the story of the discovery and rescue of the sukkah
Jewish Culture Programs in Former Leczna Synagogue (now Museum)
By Samuel D. Gruber
ISJM, October 12, 2008
(Click here for this story with photos at Sam’s blog)
On October 22, the 1937 Yiddish language film version of An-Sky's play "The Dybbuk" will be shown in former synagogue of Leczna, now the seat of the Regional Museum in Leczna (Lubelskie province). The synagogue is one of the best preserved synagogues of the "bimah-support" type. Built/ in 1648, it was damaged by fire in 1846, and again by the Germans during the Second World War, when it was used for storage. Perhaps because of its massive walls, the building survived as a ruin until it was rebuilt from1953-1964 as the Museum of the Lublin Coal Region. It now houses a Regional Judaica Museum, housing a collection of liturgical objects, clothing and everyday items.
The film showing is organized by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and the Regional Museum in Leczna within the framework of the 'Leczna - Common Past, Two Cultures' project, supported by the Town Office and the 'Research on the Attitude Towards Jews and Their Heritage. Cooperation with Local Partners in Selected 15 Towns. Education for Tolerance' program, and the Batory Foundation. The film showing is intended to maintain a Jewish cultural identity within the former synagogue, but also to bring attention to Jewish cultural contribution to pre-War Poland, where the film was made. Throughout October, a series of five intercultural dialogue workshops for students will also be held in Leczna, organized by the experts of the Holocaust Research Center of the Institute of the Jagiellonian University.
The Renaissance-style synagogue is a simple rectangle in plan, fifteen meters long, with massive walls reaching a thickness in places of as much as 2.4 meters. Round-headed windows are deeply set in recessed arcades. Sloping buttresses brace the building's corners. There was once a vestibule on the west side, but this was destroyed some time in the past. Inside, the massive two-level bimah is the most notable feature. Its four thick columns once supported a dome under which would have been a raised platform with table for reading the Torah. When I first visited the synagogue when it was being prepared as the museum, the interior was entirely whitewashed. Now, some of the original polychrome decoration has been restored, including rich color on the bimah.
Click here for more history of the site and pictures of how it looks now.
Today, on the south wall, there is also a plaque commemorating the 1,046 local Jews killed by the Germans.
Brzeziny Jewish Cemetery Monument Defaced (Again)
ISJM, September 16, 2008
The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage reported on September 8, 2008 that the Holocaust monument at the Jewish cemetery in Brzeziny (Lodzkie province) has been vandalized (again). Anti-Semitic graffiti was painted on the memorial tablet.
According to the report from the Foundation:
"The Jewish cemetery in Brzeziny, located at current Reymonta St., was established probably in 16th century and was in use until the Nazi devastation during the Holocaust. During communist regime in Poland a sand mine was built on the cemetery grounds. Witnesses report that sand mixed with human bones was used to make prefabricates destined to be used in constructing large condominiums. Many tombstones were stolen and used for construction works, among others, to reinforce the fishing ponds. In 1992, on the initiative of the descendants of the Jews from Brzeziny, the cemetery grounds were fenced."
Conference of Poles Who Preserve Jewish Heritage, September 15-16, 2008
By Samuel D. Gruber
ISJM, September 16, 2008
The first national conference of (non-Jewish) Poles who care for Jewish heritage sites in Poland is scheduled for Sept. 15-16 in the town of Zdunska Wola, near Lodz in central Poland. The government-supported conference is the brain-child of local activist Kamila Klauzinska, graduate student in Jewish studies at Krakow's Jagiellonian University, one of many non-Jewish Poles who volunteer to protect and preserve Jewish heritage in Poland. To read more and to see the schedule go to Ruth Ellen Gruber's Jewish-Heritage-Travel blog. Ruth has been covering many of these efforts as a journalist and travel writer for more than 20 years.
This conference is a welcome development and similar events are being encouraged in other countries where Jews are often "caretaker" communities, and cannot provide alone the protection and maintenance that so many of the Jewish sites for which they are responsible require. Only with the help of local people can this be done, and locals are most often willing to help when the better understand the sanctity of sites, and their history and cultural significance. I am pleased to see that Jan Jagielski of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw will be addressing the conference. Long before the fall of Communism, Jan and a small group of colleagues began to document forgotten Jewish sites, and to encourage and train local people in their care.
No one knows more about the location and condition of Jewish sites in Poland, especially cemeteries, than Jan. I had the privilege of collaborating with Jan and Eleonora Bergman (now director of the Institute) in the early 1990s as we prepared the first comprehensive inventory of Jewish cemeteries in Poland.
That work, which was a project of the Jewish Heritage Council of the World Monuments Fund on behalf of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, was in a small way the foundation on which almost all subsequent planning, preservation and legal actions were built. Lena and Jan directed that survey which included sites visits to close 1200 sites over forty participants.
Today, Lena, Jan and many of those first survey field workers still lead the way in the care of Poland's Jewish heritage. Others, like Adam Penkalla of Radom have sadly passed away. Fortunately, however, a new general of younger volunteers and trained professionals has come forward, inspired by the work of the "pioneers." As the documentary and conservation work of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland demonstrates, much has been accomplished in Poland. Much, of course, remains to be done.
We must remember, too, that volunteerism is only one part of what is required to protect and preserve Jewish heritage sites in Poland and elsewhere. There must be government recognition and support of these activities, and they must be fully integrated into broader cultural heritage, education and economic development policies. Lastly, more Jewish communities must be educated and empowered to participate more fully in this role. Sometimes small communities are too overwhelmed with the needs of the present to look back at the remains from the past. Sometimes Jewish leadership is scared (often with good reason) to take on local vested interests of government and business to insist on return of religious and cultural heritage sites. In the 1990s Central and Eastern European governments had incentives - EU and NATO membership among them - to cooperate in this effort. Now, with other global problems looming, it is difficult to gain (often new) governments' interest and commitment.
ISJM applauds the efforts of the volunteers of Poland and encourages others to learn from their example.