-- Old Synagogue --

The Old Synagogue (Alte Shul-Stara Boznica) in Kazimierz (Krakow), Poland, is a Gothic structure which was built early in the fifteenth century. During World War II, the Nazis desecrated and looted the synagogue, and murdered thousands of Jews there; the Nazis also used the synagogue for storage before ultimately destroying it.

The synagogue was rebuilt by Matteo Gucci of Florence in the late 1950s and currently houses the Judaica Branch of the Historical Museum of Krakow:

. . . It contains a collection of Judaica from [the] seventeenth, eighteenth, and twentieth centuries. Among the exhibits are works of master jewelers who specialized in Judaica including: Kelmer, Lopienski, Pogorzelski, Reidel, Szekman and Szyldberg. . . .

. . . The permanent exhibition covers the pre-war history of Kazimierz (the Jewish area of Cracow), as well as the fate of the Jews of Cracow in Plaszow and other death camps. (Kagan, 66) . . .

In her stirring book, Upon the Doorposts of Thy House: Jewish Life in East-Central Europe, Yesterday and Today (New York, 1994), Ruth Ellen Gruber makes the following observation about problems with the museum:
. . . The museum, like many Jewish museums, displays a fascinating collection of Judaica -- silver and ceramic ritual objects, paintings, embroidered tapestries, and textiles -- but they are displayed primarily as art objects, as artifacts, as exotica, with little descriptive information and little attempt to teach or explain what these objects were used for, by whom, how, and why.

"It could be an exhibition of exotic Indian artifacts or material from the South Sea islands," Sam [the author's brother and director of the Jewish Heritage Council of the World Monuments Fund] commented when we visited the museum. "There's a need to 'humanize' Jews, to teach that Jews were people. To show what Jews did, who they were. To look at this, you'd think that Jews just sat around menorahs all day. Until there is understanding about what is or was a Jew, stereotypes will be perpetuated."

I recalled how the Jewish man I spoke with in 1992 had overheard a child at the museum asking what a Jew looks like. (Gruber, 204-205) . . .

[ Thumbnail ] Old Synagogue: Courtyard [ 37k ]

[ Thumbnail ] Old Synagogue: Side View [ 47k ]

[ Thumbnail ] Old Synagogue: Tadeusz Kosciuszko Plaque [ 90k ]

[ Thumbnail ] Old Synagogue: Bimah [ 123k ]

[ Return to the Polish Synagogues Page ]

Last Updated: 14 February 1996

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