Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Around the Jewish World: Desecrated by the Nazis, Neglected by Communists, Polish Shul Restored

June 6, 2000
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Tempel Synagogue in Krakow, Poland, has been restored to its original splendor.

The city, in partnership with international preservation groups and private donors, carried out the six-year renovation project.

The magnificent building will serve as a sanctuary for religious services and also provide a venue for concerts and other cultural events.

A plaque was unveiled at a ceremony June 1 to honor the international supporters of the project and the team of architects, conservators, historians and craftspeople who collaborated on the painstaking reclamation.

“None of us realized at the beginning what a potent effect this undertaking would have on the community. It shows that it is possible to give abandoned synagogues a viable new life,” said Bonnie Burnham, president of the New York- based World Monuments Fund.

“We hope it will stimulate other projects throughout the region.”

At the invitation of the tiny Jewish community of Krakow, the WMF spearheaded the restoration project. The work became a symbol of the revitalization of Kazimierz, Krakow’s former Jewish quarter, and of the revival of Jewish life in Poland since the fall of communism.

The renovation included major structural work as well as a full-scale restoration of the ornate interior.

Built in 1860-62, and enlarged in the 1890s and 1920s, the Tempel Synagogue is the only 19thcentury synagogue to have survived intact in Poland.

Able to seat about 800 people, it was famous for its architecture and also as a centerpiece of the Jewish Progressive, or Reform, movement in prewar Poland.

During World War II, the Nazis used it as a stable. Still owned by the decimated Jewish community, it was left empty and in dilapidated condition after the war until 1989, when the Polish government repaired the stained glass windows.

Preliminary work for the restoration got under way in 1990.

Financial backing for the project came from Ronald Lauder, who heads a foundation dedicated to nurturing the rebirth of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe, Joyce Greenberg, the Getty Grant Program, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the European Union, Frances and Sydney Lewis, the Headley Trust, and other individuals and organizations.

CORRECTION: The sixth graf of the story sent Sunday on settler warnings about risks for Ehud Barak left off the title and the first name of Israel’s foreign minister. The graf should read:

Foreign Minister David Levy called on religious figures “to be careful in your remarks because you are spiritual leaders. Declarations which are dangerous could, God forbid, bring upon us another blow we cannot bear,” Levy said.

Recommended from JTA