Wednesday, March 31, 2010

USA: Three Synagogues in Queens Added to National Register

USA: Three Synagogues in Queens Added to National Register

Three 20th century synagogues in Queens, New York, were recently surveyed by the New York Landmarks Conservancy and then successfully nominated to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The synagogues are the Astoria Center of Israel (1925-26), the Free Synagogue of Flushing (1927) and the Rego Park Jewish Center (1948).

According to the Conservancy, architectural historian Tony Robins was hired to complete 10 National Register nominations, "building on the Conservancy’s survey research and outreach to each congregation. Funding for this project was provided by the Preserve New York grant program of the Preservation League of New York State and the New York State Council on the Arts."

The following article of a recent tour of the synagogues gives some description of the buildings.

Conservancy holds exclusive tour of historic Queens Synagogues

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Poland: Abandoned Jewish Cemetery of Przemysl Returned to Jewish Ownership

Poland: Abandoned Jewish Cemetery of Przemysl Returned to Jewish Ownership

(ISJM) Last month (Feb 23) Michael Freund reported in the Jerusalem Post that the long abandoned and neglected "Old" Jewish cemetery of Przemsyl,has been restituted to the ownership of the foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ). The site on is still marked by an impressive stone entrance gate. Only a few gravestones from the cemetery have survived (photos) gravestones on the site which dates to the 16th century, it is believed that the burials remain intact, and the Foundation (FODZ) plans to clean the site and protect it. The carved gravestones were removed by the German occupiers of the town during the Second World War. To date, none have been located, but ti is possible that many were reused nearby for pavements and building material and some may be still be found. A second of "New" cemetery still survives in the town. This has hundreds of surviving stones, including post-1945 burials.

In June 2009, Freund participated in the dedication of a memorial plaque on the former Przemysl New Synagogue (1910), known as the Scheinbach synagogue and now used as a public library. At that time he challenged city officials to return the former cemetery.

Przemsyl, which was once a central Polish town, but is now located near the border of Ukraine, was once at town with a thriving pre-Holocaust Jewish population (estimated at 30% of the total). As the cemetery of a major town it also served, according the FODZ researchers nearby communities of Jaroslav, Pruchnik, Kanczuga and Dynow.

the following information comes from the websites of the Cemetery project of the International Jewish Genealogical Society.

OLD CEMETERY: The Jewish homes were founded outside the walls of the city on the road to Nehrybki between the current ul Wandy and ul Rakoczy. This old cemetery was documented first in 1568 in the privilege issued by King Sigismund Augustus and again in 1571 regarding damage. Since in 1638 King Władysław IV gave the Jews the privilege allowing them to use "the synagogue cemetery: and indicating that the cemetery also served the surrounding cities including Jarosławia, Pruchnik, Kańczugi, and Dynów. Five years later the cemetery area was enlarged. Land also was purchased in 1765. An 18th century fence shows in archival records. During WWII, this cemetery was destroyed, its stone gravestones used for making roads and streets including the barracks on ul Mickiewicz. Without care cemetery slipped into oblivion. Before WWII, archival photographs in the Muzeum Narodowego Ziemi Przemyskiej show that the cemetery had a large group of graves from the 16th century, the oldest being that of a woman named Gitel bat Gershon, who died on September 23, 1574 (8 tiszri 5335). In the mid-19th century, the cemetery occupied two hectares and was almost completely filled. The Jewish Community in Przemysl needed a new cemetery.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Death of Kazimierz (Maciej) Piechotka in Warsaw

Interpretive reconstruction ink drawing of Wolpa Synagogue by Kazimierz Piechotka (Gruber-Meighan collection)

Death of Kazimierz (Maciej) Piechotka in Warsaw

I am sad to report that Kazimierz (Maciej) Piechotka died yesterday in Warsaw at age of 90 after a long illness. My deepest sympathy goes out to his cherished family Maria, Michał and Maciek Piechotka. Maciej was a successful architect for many decades in Warsaw, but his lasting fame will no doubt be the result of his brilliant work studying and bringing to life through both exact and expressive drawings the lost architecture and heritage of the Polish synagogues, especially the wooden synagogues that he studied, in close collaboration with his wife Maria, for more than 60 years.

I am glad to have known Maciej for twenty of those years, and vividly remember the time spent with him and Maria in New York and Poland in the 1990s, especially the times we spent touring Poland for 14-hour days - just months following the fall of Communism. Much of what I learned then from Maciej and Maria went into the creation of the Jewish Heritage Program of the World Monuments Fund.

Maciej Piechotka (in green coat) talking to villagers in Dzialoszyce, Poland about the former synagogue and other Jewish sites in the town (June 1990).

I will write more about Maciej's contribution to architectural history at a later date. For now let us remember his warm and ebullient personality, his quick intellect and deft drawing hand. Of the few objects in my life that I truly treasure the large drawing of the interior of Wolpa Synagogue by Maciej that hangs in my dining room is among the most cherished. Unlike most of the carefully measured architectural drawings that he published in Wooden Synagogues, this view is full of life. The synagogue is full of people, and the sky if full of swirling stars reminiscent of Van Gogh's Starry Night. Maciej's spirit will continue to reside among those stars.