Sunday, May 10, 2009

Publication: Beautiful Book of Synagogue Images Published in Belarus

Publication: Beautiful Book of Synagogue Images Published in Belarus
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) Though times are tough for the former synagogues of Belarus (see recent posts about Kobrin and Luban, the legacy of synagogue architecture is not forgotten in that country. I have recently received a beautifully produced volume of high quality reproductions of historic postcards - 461 images altogether - representing several hundred views in scores of towns and cities of Eastern Europe and especially the former Soviet Union. For Belarus alone, postcards are reproduced of synagogues in Bereza-Kartuska, Bobruisk, Borisov, Brest, David-Gorodok, Derechin, Druya, Glubokoe, Gorodische, Grodno, Ivanovo, Ivye, Kletsk, Kozhan-Gorodok, Khomsk, Lida, Lumno, Minsk, Mir, Mogilev, Mstislavl, Narovlya, Nesvizh, Novaya Mysh, Novogrudok, Ozery, Orsha, Oshmyany, Pinsk, Polotsk, Pruzhany, Skidel, Slonim, Sopotskin, Stolovichi, Vitebsk, Volkovysk,Volpa, Zhlobin.

The book Synagogues: Jewish Life by Vladimir Likhodedov (Minsk: Riftur, 2007) [ISBN 978-985-6700-60-9] is both a tremendous resource and also a terrible reminder of the architectural, historic and religious legacy that has been lost through the destruction of the Soviet regime in the in the 1920s, during the Holocaust, and in the post-war Soviet era. Only a few of the buildings represented still, stand, and those are now in much-altered condition.

Still, for the most part, these postcards from the collection of Mikhail Tverdokhlebov, represent only the most scenic and monumental of synagogue buildings - those that were already seen in their time as both Jewish and local landmarks and tourist attractions. Thus, hundreds- probably thousands - of small shuls in big cities, and all the synagogues and prayer houses in smaller towns and villages remain unrecorded. The original appearance of many is lost forever - since they were never photographed at all. The Jewish Heritage Research Group in Belarus has in recent years endeavored to document those buildings still standing in Belarus, and some of their efforts can be seen on their website.

The author states that this volume is the first of a series called “Jewish Life,” of the project “Looking for Lost Values,” and that more books will come out soon to “introduce the reader to the world of Jewish History, culture and everyday routines.” We look forward to more works of this quality.

In recent years there have been several collections of synagogue and Judaica postcards. I invite readers to submit titles - I think it worthwhile to assemble a list of these publications.

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