Poland: Rediscovered Beit Midrash in Bedzin
(ISJM) On July 17, Ruth Ellen Gruber reported in her blog about a visit to the re-discovered Beit Midrash (study house) in the Polish town of Bedzin. Located in an apartment in a non-descript apartment building, the prayer room is notable for the remains of wall paintings which have been uncovered from layers of overpaint. The painting appear to be fairly typical for this type of decoration. From the 1890 through the 1920s a combination of Jewish symbols - mostly referring to the Jerusalem Temple - and scenes of the Holy Land (often derived form postcards) were very common for synagogues and prayer houses. Part of the popularity of these images was due to their availability in new media (books, magazines, postcards) - which were creating a new version of global Judaism. images of the Holy Land were also associated with a yearning for Zion - and this was common for both religious and secular Zionists. The scenes in synagogues, however, are always set in a Biblical time, even when, on occasion, more modern elements creep in to the depictions. The Bedzin paintings, while not particularly sophisticated, are an important addition to a the small number of preserved examples of such painting.
According to Ruth Ellen Gruber:
The Prayer House is located in an upstairs apartment at Aleja Kollataja 24 -- in a building that was part of a grand complex of tenement dwellings and businesses owned by Nuchim Cukerman. You have to enter a narrow courtyard (open at one end) and climb the stairs.Click here to read the complete report and see more photos.
After World War II, the Prayer House was divided into two rooms and a kitchen, to serve as a flat. The paintings were covered over by cheap paint and stenciling. Apparently the owner always knew about the hidden murals, which became known publicly a couple of years ago, when high school students were brought in to clear off some of the over-paint with sponges and water.
[This past]... March, young people in the town created a Foundation -- the Fundacja Brama Cukerman (Cukerman's Gate Foundation) -- to conserve and protect the prayer house and make it available for visitors as part of Bedzin's rich Jewish heritage. The Brama Cukerman Foundation is also placing plaques on former Jewish sites, including places of business, such as a one-time Jewish cinema house, around town, to create a heritage route.
Additional photos can be seen here.