This week we read about the building of the Mishkan, or the tabernacle in the desert. The attention to detail, the beautiful materials, the cooperation between God, who furnished the design, and the people who out of the "generosity of their hearts" were to provide the lapis and the gold, the silver and the copper, the dolphin skins, acacia wood and ram skins, all contribute to the question of how synagogues after the destruction of the temple sought to redefine, and yet continue, the glorious history of the sanctuary to be shared by God and the Jewish people. We will begin by looking at the Parshah and then we will learn about the legacy of wooden synagogues in Poland.
From Etz Hayim
God's presence is not found in a building. It is found in the hearts and souls of the people who fashion and sanctify the building. A midrash suggests that the tabernacle was fashioned to meet God's needs as well as Israel's. It tells of a king who gave his only daughter in marriage to a prince from another country. He told his daughter, "I cannot prevent you from moving away with your husband, but it grieves me to have you leave. Do this for me, then. Wherever you live, build an apartment for me so that I can come and visit you." Thus God says to Israel, "Wherever you travel, build a shrine for me that I may dwell among you." (Shmot Rabbah 33:11)
Online Videos About Polish Wooden Synagogues:
Online Essays About Polish Wooden Synagogues:
Oskar Sosnowski (1880-1939)
Sosnowski was quite interested in Jewish culture, and he began a project to inventory synagogues in Poland during the 1920s. Of especial importance is the documentation, measured drawings and photographs made in the period between the First and Second World Wars by the Department of Polish Architecture of the Polytechnic of Warsaw, and in particular, the efforts of Professor Sosnowski and other architects, art historians and students which he led, has provided a unique collection of documentation Sosnowski, photographer and art historian Szymon Zajczyk, and Warsaw Polytechnic students documented these wooden structures through architectural drawings, replica paintings, and photographs. Recognizing the historical importance and artistic value of this architecture and fearing its impending destruction with the rise of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, this team compiled extensive data and produced architectural drawings, color and detail studies and photographs of many synagogues. Much of this project was destroyed during World War II but a substantial amount survived. Today the documentation is all that remain of the wooden synagogues of Poland.
He also prepared an extensive database documenting of other buildings and design elements that has now become part of the work in preserving the European Wooden Churches Heritage. The collection includes drawings and photographs concerning monumental as well as vernacular architecture. It was rescued during the burning of Warsaw by the Nazis and the collection was continued after war, so that it consists now more than 35 thousand drawings – plans, sections, facades, and details along with thousands of photographs, and is probably the biggest archive of this kind in Poland.
Szymon Zajczyk (d. 1942)
Architect, architectural historian and photographer. Made on his field trips in Poland thousands of photos of wooden synagogues. He published a few short, but very promising studies.
Isidor Kaufmann (1854-1921)
In the late 1890s, Viennese Jewish painter, Isidor Kaufmann traveled throughout the territory of modern-day Ukraine to research and document wooden synagogues and their richly painted interiors. Among the many communities and synagogues that he visited, he lingered in the Gwoździec synagogue, which he later painted upon returning to his Vienna studio. During World War I, the Gwoździec synagogue was damaged, and, along with nearly all of the two-hundred (known) painted wooden synagogues across Eastern Europe, was ultimately destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. Isidor Kaufmann’s painting, and documentation produced before 1939 by architects, art historians, and ethnographers, constitute the only surviving testimonies of the synagogue’s remarkable architecture and the dense and colorful wall paintings that adorned its interior. With their devastating destruction, this documentation of the Gwoździec synagogue provides a glimpse of this unique tradition of painted synagogues popularized among 17th- and 18th-century Ashkenazi Jewish communities.