Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. I, No. 2 / Summer 1997
Destruction of Ilza Synagogue?

Memberís Letter: SYNAGOGUE DESTRUCTION IN ILZA (POLAND)?

Building in Ilza, Poland
Photo: Demolition of building in Ilza, Poland. Was this a synagogue? © Betty Proviser Starkman 1997

Ilza, Poland, located south of Radom in the Kielce region, is the ancestral home of part of my family and I have documented them there to 1789. I first visited Ilza in 1987 and the synagogue was at that time a theater. Upon my arrival on July 18, 1996, I discovered the synagogue in the process of destruction. I complained to the local mayor, who said it was out of his domain. To the best of my knowledge, it is contrary to Polish law to destroy Jewish communal property. I went to the Jewish Historical Society in Warsaw the following day and lodged a complaint. Several months later I received a letter from the Jewish Historical Society stating that they are not sure that it was ever a synagogue (according to Polish authorities). The Poles claim that even if it was a synagogue, it was in a terrible state of repair. This, of course, was not the case during by 1987 visit. They were supposed to contact me again, however, I have never heard from anyone regarding the matter. I guess at this point, it really does not matter, since the old little synagogue is gone. Also gone is the cemetery. You will see me in the photo saying Kaddish both in the non-existent cemetery and the destroyed synagogue. For a fact, I know it was a synagogue since my father had his Bar Mitzvah there in 1915 and the famous Rabbi Shapira led the community there. I also own the writings from the inside of the synagogue Mazzuzah which was given to my uncle following World War II.

Betty Proviser Starkman
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Editor's Response

ISJM contacted Eleonora Bergman, Deputy Director of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw about Ms. Starkmanís letter and received the following information: "According to Marek Figiel, regional conservator of monuments, the synagogue building was dismantled during the 1940s when the war was over. On the same site another structure was built partially on the old foundations, to serve as a cinema. Because of its poor condition and danger of collapse, it was decided to dismantle the building. In his office he has the survey of the building of 1984 and the measured drawing of the plan of the first floor. The work of 1996 was also documented." According to Dr. Adam Penkalla, an expert on Jewish sites in that part of Poland, part of the cinema was perhaps adopted from the synagogue. Mr. Adam Bednarczyk, a local historian from Ilza apparently has a photograph of a fragment of the old synagogue in his collection. During the dismantling of the synagogue he found a sandstone desk (bimah?) with a Hebrew inscription. This is now in the local museum. Dr. Bergman adds, "I went to Ilza approximately two months ago with the regional conservator of monuments and I saw the ruins of the former synagogue. It was confirmed, however, by the conservator, that the building now being dismantled, which served as a cinema for many years, was not a transformed synagogue, but just built on the same site. There was an addition to the building which was a pre-war part, which could have been a heder. Perhaps the Pripetchuk which Ms. Starkman mentioned [in a separate letter] was in that room? To the best of my knowledge, that type of stove was never built in synagogues, except in rooms of apartments adopted as prayer rooms."

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B. Berman
Updated: 24-Jul-98