Nozyk Synagogue

The Nożyk Synagogue is the only pre-war synagogue in Warsaw to have survived the Nazi occupation of the city.

When Hitler’s invading troops entered Warsaw (September 29, 1939), the city’s Jewish population numbered about 370,000 (about one third of the total), making it the world’s largest Jewish center after New York.

Hundreds of synagogues and prayer houses were then in existence, including the monumental Great Synagogue on Tlomackie Street which the Nazis blew up in mid-May 1943 to mark their victory over the Warsaw Ghetto fighters.

Only one Jewish place of worship survived the devastation of World War II – the Nożyk Synagogue located at 6 Twarda Street. The Germans had converted the building for use as a stables and storage house and it was therefore saved from the general destruction.

Built in a neo-Romanesque style, on the initiative of Zalman and Rywka Nożyk, it was consecrated in 1902. Though damaged during the German withdrawal, the site was once again used as a synagogue after the war.

Fully restored between 1977 and 1983, the Nozyk Synagogue is now open for worship. It remains at the very center of the Jewish community in the city.

Contributed by Dr. G A Sivan, Jerusalem

Zalman Nożyk, a Warsaw retailer, and his wife Rivka lived at 9 Próżna. In 1892, Zalman bought a vacant plot at 6 Twarda Street paying a sum of 157,000 roubles to one Jan Teodor Engelbert Zembrzuski. 10 years later, on 25 May 1902, at Lag BaOmer, the synagogue was solemnly opened.

The synagogue was built in the Romanesque Revival style, and incorporated the Byzantine and Moorish style ornamentation. The seating capacity of the men’s section on the ground floor and the women’s section on the balcony stands at 350.

At the death of Rivka Nożyk in 1914, the synagogue together with all the related adjacent property was granted to the Warsaw Jewish Religious Community. The only conditions imposed by the donors included: the obligation to maintain the synagogue from collected donations, to retain its full original name, and to recite the El Male Rachamim prayer for the founders.

In 1940 the Nożyk Synagogue was shut down and devastated by the Nazis, converted into horse stables and a feed storehouse. At establishment of the Warsaw ghetto, the building complex found itself in a section referred to as the Small Ghetto. On 20 May 1941, the German authorities authorised the opening of three synagogues for the faithful, including the Nożyk Synagogue. The ceremonial opening took place on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah of 5702 (1941). Meir Bałaban was then appointed as the synagogue’s rabbi and preacher. During the Warsaw Rising, the Nożyk Synagogue was damaged severely, but remained structurally sound and did not collapse. The provisional repairs carried out immediately after the war allowed it to function once again as a place of prayer.

In 1968, the Nożyk Synagogue was shut down once more. From then on, prayers were held in a room of an adjacent building, at the 6 Twarda Street address. In the years 1977 to 1983 the synagogue building underwent a general renovation, this with the aim of restoring it to its original appearance of the early 20th century and of adding an office annex to its eastern exposure.

At present, the synagogue serves as the Warsaw Jewish community’s key meeting point it is primarily a place of prayer, but also a unique monument on the map of the city.The Synagogue can be now visited in the following hours:

Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.

During Shabbat and other Jewish holidays the Synagogue is closed for the visitors.

During Shabbat and other Jewish holidays the Synagogue is closed for the visitors.

These additional online resources from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will help you learn more about the Holocaust and research your family history.

Holocaust Encyclopedia

The Holocaust Encyclopedia provides an overview of the Holocaust using text, photographs, maps, artifacts, and personal histories.

Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center

Research family history relating to the Holocaust and explore the Museum's collections about individual survivors and victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution.

Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos

Learn about over 1,000 camps and ghettos in Volume I and II of this encyclopedia, which are available as a free PDF download. This reference provides text, photographs, charts, maps, and extensive indexes.

The Warsaw Ghetto (final – part 3)

Our seemingly never-ending search for ghetto nostalgia continues with the discovery of the most authentic (but well hidden) fragment of wall, some synagogues and the focus point for Jewish remembrance / future site of Jewish history museum.

First of all, here’s one of those maps again so you can find your way around.

Below is a picture taken in 1942-43 that shows a part of the ghetto wall. The commentary on the site where I found it (apologies but I’ve lost the link) suggests it is the same section of wall that exists today between ul. Sienna and ul. Zlota.

The plaque reads – “A casting and two original bricks from this wall erected by the Nazis to enclose the Warsaw ghetto were taken to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington to give authentic power to its permanent exhibition. August 1989”

By some mind-blowingly uncaring act of soviet town planning, this section of the wall is separated from an adjacent section by the construction of a housing block (on the right in the photo). The other section can be seen in the photos below and would probably, without the housing, have continued the section of wall in the above photo off to the right (or the section below to the left)

This (dark colour) plaque reads – “In the period from Nov 15th, 1940, to Nov 20th, 1941, this wall marked the limit of the ghetto. This plaque was affixed by The President of the State of Israel, Chaim Herzog, during his state visit to Poland. 26th May, 1992.”

In addition to separating these sections of wall, the post war construction means that both sections are well hidden deep inside a housing estate. Some may tell you that you can find them at ul. Sienna 55. That gets you in the right area but all entrances to the estate from that side are locked, or were when I was there. You therefore need to go to ul. Zlota 62 (just across Jana Pawla from Zlote Tarasy) where you will find a way in – red X marks the spot!

Follow your nose through the alleys until you find this sign

Turning right will get you to the small section and left, followed by a right, to the larger section. Best of luck!

Now, lets go find some synagogues.

Before the Holocaust, Warsaw was the most important Jewish center in Europe. The city’s more than 350,000 Jews made up one-third of the city’s population. More Jews lived in Warsaw than in all of Czechoslovakia roughly the same number lived in France. Of all the cities in the world, only New York had a bigger Jewish population.

The Nozyk Synagogue, established by a wealthy Warsaw couple, Zalman and Rywka Nozyk, was just one of the city’s more than 440 synagogues and prayer houses.

The Orthodox Synagogue (also known as the Nożyk Synagogue) is the only one to have survived the war (sort of). This is located between ul. Twarda and ul. Grzybowska. As usual, it is quite well hidden and is best approached from the Twarda side down a small walkway.

The synagogue looks like this

. . . During the occupation, the synagogue was used by the Nazis for a stable and fodder storage, thus causing considerable devastation. Bombardments of the city during the Warsaw uprising in 1944 caused much damage to the roof and part of the elevation. After the war (in the late 1940s), it was roughly reconstructed and put to religious use. The thorough reconstruction under supervision of architects Hanna Szczepanowska and Eva Dziedzic took place from 1977 to 1983. During the reconstruction new quarters for the Religious Union of the Mosaic Faith in the Polish People’s Republic were added at the eastern wall. The official opening took place on April 18, 1983 (Kagan, 136-137).

By the way. On route you will pass a Zdrój, watering hole, bringing water up from underground springs. It was hot like hell when I visited so I drank some of the water, you could taste the minerals but I’m still alive and kicking.

The main synagogue in Warsaw, however, was the Great Synagogue. This is the yellow/black dot on the map directly below ‘B’ and to the right of ‘A’.

Construction was finished in 1878 and this is how it looked shortly before WWII:

At 20:15 on 16th May 1943, it was blown to smithereens by SS Brigadefuehrer Juergen Stroop by way of celebrating his quashing of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

STROOP WAS the archetypal Nazi – a sadistic anti-Semite who took joy in hunting Jews, whom he considered sub-humans. He remained unrepentant right up to his execution in Warsaw [in 1951], after being convicted of war crimes. In the Warsaw Mokotow prison awaiting his trial, he regaled his cellmates with stories of how he had succeeded in liquidating the Warsaw Ghetto. One of them, Kazimierz Moczarski, a Pole accused of activity against the Polish Communist regime, relates in his book Conversations With The Hangman, that when describing how he had dynamited the great synagogue on Tlomackie Street his eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.

“What a wonderful sight! I called out Heil Hitler! and pressed the button. A terrific explosion brought flames right up to the clouds. The colors were unbelievable. An unforgettable allegory of the triumph over Jewry. The Warsaw Ghetto has ceased to exist. Because that is what Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler wanted.”

For many years the site of the demolished Great Synagogue was empty (with rumours of a curse), then a building was part constructed but remained unfinished for over 25 years and eventually, in 1993, the construction of what is now called the “blue tower’ was completed.

To the left of the tower in the above photo and also to the left of the synagogue in the historical photo is a building that used to be a Jewish library and was constructed between 1928 – 1936. Somehow it managed to survive the explosion and is used today as the home of the Jewish Historical Institute. In the photo below you can see the institute on the right and the bottom of the blue tower on the left. There is a plaque attached to the tower building.

If you’re not too tired, there are just two more places to take you. Follow me! [waves umbrella in the air]

First of all, lets take a look at what used to be the brush factory. On the map, this is letter ‘B’. Some snippets that mention the brush factory

Edelman, then 24, took command of one of the revolt’s three groups of fighters, all between the ages of 13 and 22. His brigade included 50 so-called “brush men” because their base was a brush factory.

The second day of uprising, April 20, was like the first-heavy German attacks and stubborn Jewish resistance. A mine had been set in the area of the brush factory at the gate of Wolowa Street Number 6. When the SS reached the gate it was detonated the ZOB reported that 22 Germans were killed.

By now [September 1942] the ghetto comprised: (1) The area of Tobbens’, Schultz’s, Rohrich’s shops–Leszno Street, Karmelicka Street, Nowolipki Street, Smocza, Nowolipie and Zelazna Streets up to Leszno (2) The “brush-makers’ area”– Swietojerska Street, Walowa, Franciszkanska, and Bonifraterska Streets up to Swietojerska (3) The “central ghetto”–Gesia Street, Franciszkanska, Bonifraterska, Muranowska, Pokorna, Stawki, Parysowski Square, and Smocza Street up to Gesia.

February 8, 1943
Globocnik signs a contract with the F.W. Schultz and Co., which provides that the Schultz fur production plant with 4,000 Jewish workers and the brush-making plant with 1,500 workers be transferred from the Warsaw ghetto to Trawniki.

Today the factory is the Chinese Embassy, which covers a huge area. Below are photos of the entrance and one taken looking down ul. Bonifraterska where the Embassy takes up the whole of the area to the right hand side behind the trees.

Finally, we visit the “ground zero” so to speak of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, which is Ghetto Heroes Square. The square is enclosed by four streets Anielewicza (named after the leader of the ghetto uprising), Karmelicka (named after the Carmelite religious order), Zamenhofa (named after the Pole who invented the Esperanto language) and Lewartowskiego (named after a ghetto resident and founder of the Anti-Fascist Bloc).

Of all the ghetto landmarks that remain to be found, I have to say that this square is probably the least interesting, perhaps because it is the easiest to find. It is simply a large grassy square in the location of one of the main bunkers used by the Jewish resistance. It contains the main monument to the ghetto heroes, seen below

Arguably the most memorable moment in this location came on December 7th, 1970, when West German Chancellor, Willy Brandt, did the “Warschauer Kniefall” and spontaneously knelt before the monument during his visit to Poland. Not something any German had been brave enough to do until then.

Looking to the future, this square is (possibly, one day) to become the site of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, as the billboard proclaims

At present, all they have is the billboard, a website and a temporary exhibit (see below). The construction of this museum has been discussed ad-nauseam and is going nowhere fast. Plans come and go, promises are made and broken. This one looks a little more promising than past attempts but one can only assume there is some resistance to the idea in places where approvals or money are required.

In the process of preparing these posts, I’ve had a chance to see and read a lot about Jewish history in Warsaw and Poland generally. There’s no question that it is a rich and very long history with a violent ending, certainly worthy of one museum if not more. The fact that such a museum is not yet built, and the fact that so much of the ghetto history is incredibly hard to find and largely neglected has to tell you something about the attitude of the Poles towards the Jews. I’m not going to suggest anti-Semitism as that’s a bit too harsh but there’s certainly a great deal of apathy.

Let’s hope this or future generations will be better able to embrace and celebrate the shared history of these lands than their predecessors have been. It is my opinion that by including Jewish, German, Ukrainian and other histories alongside the more mainstream and currently acceptable history of “pure” Polish people (as in – Catholics), this country would become a far richer place in so many ways.

Nozyk Synagogue - History

This is indeed a remnant rescued from the flames – Zachariah 3.2

Nożyk synagogue was opened in 1902, and had a rich history: many of the great cantors of the early 20th century prayed there. That is, until World War 2 when the Germans found another use for it as a fodder warehouse and stables, which preserved it in the middle of destruction. It was restored and reopened as a synagogue in 1983 and today it’s the main synagogue of Warsaw’s Jewish community.

The outside is quite grand in a dignified way, nothing like the decorative vividness of the only other synagogue I’ve visited, the Jerusalem synagogue in Prague.

But I enter through the unassuming back door, and realise the ongoing fear felt by Jews as I’m frisked and my handbag investigated.

Inside, the Aron Kadesh (the holy ark) is flanked by marble columns with decorative capitals, its dome topped by a Star of David. The bimah contains a table for reading the Torah, and is also the rostrum where the cantor conducts his prayers. On the wall is the Mizrah, an ornamental plate placed on the eastern wall to show the direction of Jerusalem (shown in the second last collage.) Upstairs is the women’s gallery to keep women separate and to avoid distractions to the undisciplined minds of men. On the stairs and leading into the women’s gallery are mosaic “carpets” and an archway is crowned with a blaze of stained glass.

Outside in a howling wind and spatters of rain, information panels outline the history of Warsaw’s Jewish community and explain aspects of Jewish belief and practice. One of them points me to as yet unvisited sites important in Warsaw’s Jewish history.


The Malabari Jews or Yehudan Mappila (also known as Cochin Jews) formed a prosperous trading community of Kerala, and they controlled a major portion of worldwide spice trade. [ citation needed ] In 1568, Paradesi Jews constructed the Paradesi Synagogue adjacent to Mattancherry Palace, Cochin, now part of the Indian city of Ernakulam, on land given to them by the Raja of Kochi. The first synagogue in India was built in the 4th century in Kodungallur (Cranganore) when the Jews had a merchantile role in the South Indian region (now called Kerala) along the Malabar coast. When the community moved to Kochi in the 14th century, it built a new synagogue there. [ citation needed ]

The Malabari Jews' or the Yehudan Mappila first synagogue in Cochin was destroyed in the 16th century during the Portuguese persecution of the Jews and Nasrani or Suriyani Mappila or Syriac (Aramaic) Mappila people. The second, built under the protection of the Raja, in Mattancherry, in 1558, during the Portuguese rule of Cochin, is the present synagogue, [4] which is still in use for worship and can attract a minyan. It is called Paradesi synagogue because it was built by Spanish speaking Jews (Paradesi Jews) this contributed to the informal name: paradesi synagogue or "foreign" synagogue. In addition, a new Jewish group had immigrated to Kochi, Sephardim from the Iberian Peninsula. They and the Malabari Jews or Yehudan Mappila shared many aspects of their religion, and the newcomers learned the Judeo-Malayalam dialect, but the Sephardim also retained their own culture and Spanish language at least for three centuries. By 1660 the Dutch ruled the Kochi area, calling it Dutch Malabar. In later years, the Paradesi Synagogue was used primarily by the Sephardim (who were also referred to as Paradesi) and their descendants, and later European exiled Jews.

The Paradesi Synagogue had three classes of members:

  • White Jews were full members. The White Jews, or Paradesi Jews, were the recent descendants of Sephardim from Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands.
  • Black Jews, or Malabari Jews, were allowed to worship but were not admitted to full membership. These Cochin Jews were the original Jewish settlers of Cochin.
  • Meshuchrarim, a group of freed slaves and their descendants brought by the Sephardim, they had no communal rights and no synagogue of their own. They sat on the floor or on the steps outside. In the first half of the 20th century, Abraham Barak Salem, a meshuchrar, successfully campaigned against this discrimination.

In 1968, the 400th anniversary of the synagogue was celebrated in a ceremony attended by Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister.

As is customary for Orthodox Jewish or Yehudan Mappila synagogues, the Paradesi Synagogue has separate seating sections for men and women.

Today the Paradesi Synagogue is the only functioning synagogue in Kochi with a minyan (though this minyan must be formed with Jews from outside Kochi, as the number who still reside there is not sufficient). In conformity with the Hindu, St Thomas Christian or Syrian Mappila and Muslim Mappila traditions of Kerala, the worshippers are required to enter the Paradesi Synagogue barefoot. [5] Other facets which are unique to the Cochin Jewish community, and which are results of Hindu influence, include special colours of clothing for each festival, circumcision ceremonies performed at public worship, and distribution of grape-soaked myrtle leaves on certain festivals. In addition, the current Rabbi at the Paradesi synagogue placed by Midrash Sephardi is Rabbi Yonaton Francis Goldschmidt.

The synagogue is open for a fee to visitors as a historic attraction. The ticket-seller, Yaheh Hallegua, is the last female Paradesi Jew of child-bearing age. [6] The synagogue is closed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and also on Jewish holidays. As of April 2016, only 5 Jews live in Fort Kochi. [ citation needed ] . Timing to visit the Mattanherry Synagogue is from 5:00 a.m to 1:00 p.m and then it again opens from 5:00 p.m to 7:00 p.m . There is a strict dress code for both Men and Women. Men have to wear full shirts and trousers and Women have to wear skirts below knee length .

The Paradesi Synagogue has the Scrolls of the Law, several gold crowns received as gifts, many Belgian glass chandeliers, and a brass-railed pulpit. It houses the 10th-century copper plates of privileges given to Joseph Rabban, the earliest known Cochin Jew. These two plates were inscribed in Old Malayalam by the ruler of the Malabar Coast. The floor of the synagogue is composed of hundreds of Chinese, 18th-century, hand-painted porcelain tiles, each of which is unique. A hand-knotted oriental rug was a gift from Haile Selassie, the last Ethiopian emperor. [7] The synagogue has an 18th-century clock tower, which, along with other parts of the complex, was restored between 1998 and 1999 under the direction of the World Monuments Fund. [8]

A tablet from the 1344 synagogue in Kochangadi in Kochi was installed on the outer wall of the Paradesi synagogue. The inscription states that the structure was built in 5105 (in the Hebrew calendar) as "an abode for the spirit of God."

The Thekkumbhagom synagogue, located on Jews Street in the Ernakulam area of Cochin, was built in 1580 and renovated in 1939. [9]

The Ancient Synagogue in Israel & the Diaspora

A unique and fundamental aspect of ancient Judean society in both Israel and the Diaspora, the ancient synagogue represents an inclusive, localized form of worship that did not crystallize until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. In antiquity, there was a variety of terms that represented the structure, although some of these were not exclusive to the synagogue and may refer to something else, such as a temple. These terms include proseuchē, meaning "prayer house" or "prayer hall" synagoge, meaning "a gathering place" hagios topos, meaning "holy place" qahal, meaning "assembly" and bet kneset or bet ha-kneset, meaning "the house of gathering". The oldest term, proseuchē, originated in 3rd century BCE Hellenistic Egypt and clearly identifies a key characteristic of the structure: prayer. Although Torah reading set the synagogue apart from other public buildings or places of worship, much like the Temple before it, the Torah was not the only defining feature of the synagogue. Other distinctive traits included the activities that took place within them as well as the art and architecture of the structures themselves.

The Role of the Ancient Synagogue

Inscriptional and literary evidence suggests that judicial proceedings, archives, treasuries, prayers, public fasts, communal meals, and lodging for traveling Judeans were all associated with the ancient synagogue. The public reading and teaching of the Torah took precedence over all else by providing the liturgical activity that set the synagogue apart, but the synagogue was much more than a religious institution and must be considered as distinctly different from its predecessor, the Temple.


Following the destruction of the Second Temple and the rise of Rabbinic Judaism, a more democratic form of worship began to take root, as well as concepts such as urbanization and institutionalization, which spread throughout the Roman, and later Byzantine, Empire. With the end of the Second Temple period came the end of the practice of sacrifice, and so the reading of the Torah filled the void. As a result, the Ark of Scrolls and the Torah shrine developed, eventually emerging as the focal point of the synagogue, representing a symbol of survival and preservation. Nearly every ancient synagogue in the land of Israel yields traces and fragments of a Torah shrine, either in the form of a raised platform as a base for the aedicula, a niche, or an apse. This evidence demonstrates the significance of the Torah shrine as one of the few consistent features within the ancient synagogue. Yet the appearance of the Torah shrine was not the only emergent trait accompanying the rise of Rabbinic Judaism. Unlike the exclusivity of priestly-mediated ritual attributed to the Temple, the participants in the ancient synagogue were involved in the performance and conducting of ceremonies, reciting prayers, and reading from the Torah. A new participatory nature of worship was developing during this period, and it is preserved through the architectural remains.

As the rabbinic class rose in power, criteria that may be deemed "non-religious" began to fall under the control of the rabbis, and therefore, the "religious" domain. In terms of legal matters, Tannaitic cases may relate to settlements for divorce/widowhood, damages for public shaming, deeds dating on the Sabbath, and so on. Despite the fact that other venues were available for resolving legal matters, the rabbinic judges served as an alternate, and seemingly popular, venue. Generally, rabbinic legal activity revolved around property and family issues, which occasionally intersected with ritual law such as in Deut. 5-10 and halîsâ, a ceremony concerning the obligation of a man to marry his brother's childless widow. Quite simply, aside from the reading and studying of the Torah, the separation of religious and non-religious functions is not as clear as one may assume in terms of the activities performed in the ancient synagogue. Whether separate or not, both religious and non-religious activities attributed to the synagogue originated in response to communal requirements, differing in distribution throughout the ancient world with the exception of the study of the Torah, around which the synagogue's ultimate purpose revolved.


As a result of the Torah's dominance in synagogue performance, it seems only reasonable that it would become a popular motif with the rise of Jewish art in late antiquity, and in fact, the Torah Ark would become just that. Yet the Torah's dominance would be expressed by other means as well, such as with the development of the Torah shrine as the focal point and physical statement of Judean religious and historical lineage. Beyond the Torah shrine, however, the ancient synagogue would come to develop additional features and characteristics that reflected communal needs and practices, all of which are evident in archaeological remains.

The Form & Structure of the Ancient Synagogue

Unlike the Temple or the Tabernacle, a synagogue could be established anywhere, as it is not believed that the synagogue was ordained by Yahweh/God. Yet sources, such as the Sages, do suggest a level of holiness in the synagogue when stressing the importance of scripture, and the appearance of the Tabernacle in synagogal art may represent a “seal of approval” or sanctity as well. It is important to remember, however, that although the synagogue represented much more to the community than a place of worship or prayer, it was only deemed “holy” or “sacred” with the presence of the Torah.

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As synagogues were not restricted to a specific location, and as no uniform design or floor plan of the ancient synagogue exists, the community was at liberty to build the structures in accordance to their own local requirements. They may be located on the seashore, along riverbanks, in the center of town, or in dwelling quarters. The only common feature to be found in terms of location is convenience for the community for both commercial and communal activities.

The synagogue should be understood as a physical mediator between the individual and the community at large. As a public space, the synagogue became a focal point in Judaism, much like the Temple pre-70 CE. As a structure, the ancient synagogue may have consisted of a single public building or a complex including rooms and courtyards, and the layout of each building varied. The evidence of extra rooms, as well as fountains, cisterns, and basins, demonstrates several characteristics of the local Judean community in which the building was established. Once again, local demands influenced the design and function of the synagogue within each individual community, and it is through the examination of the remains that particular communal requirements may be discerned. For instance, the presence of extra rooms suggests various possibilities. The first possibility indicates lodgings or hostel services in which the synagogue offered temporary accommodations for travellers, pilgrims, or synagogue officials. The appearance of extra rooms may also point toward the existence of a dining room, school, ritual baths (miqva'ot), or additional space for circumstances such as the New Moon or the Sabbath.


Without a universal floor plan, it is clear that each community valued and required different architectural or functional features, and the design of a synagogue was decided upon by the leaders of the community rather than according to an established synagogue standard. That being said, however, as the Torah shrine was located along the Jerusalem-oriented wall within each synagogue in antiquity, it is reasonable to suggest that a Judean travelling from Ostia to Ein Gedi would feel comfortable within the foreign synagogue, so far as the fundamental characteristic, namely the Torah, was concerned.

The Ancient Synagogue in the Diaspora

Much attention has been placed on the synagogues of ancient Israel thus far, however, many of the same conclusions may be made in terms of the Diaspora synagogue. Individuals living within the Diaspora experienced a disconnection from the Temple in a period much earlier than 70 CE. As a result, accommodations and supplementary modes of worship developed for those who were unable to make the pilgrimage to the Temple. Unfortunately, the synagogues in Delos and Ostia are the only locations that can be archaeologically dated prior to the 2nd century CE however, it is probable that synagogue architecture had not yet developed to a distinguishable level until that time. Considering that several Diaspora synagogues began as domestic structures, only later acquiring monumental characteristics, this theory is especially persuasive.

The function and style of the Diaspora synagogue were not unlike the synagogue of ancient Israel. Like their counterparts in Israel, Diaspora synagogues display some variation in terms of style and artistic content, yet a common and shared tradition appears to have influenced Judeans everywhere. There is little consistency in terms of location, yet this inconsistency is a trend that is shared by both synagogues in Israel and those in the Diaspora. The only quality that the locations share is the convenience they provided to the community, both commercial and communal. Aside from that, the location may represent the prominence and social acceptance of the local Jewish community, especially in the Diaspora. For instance, in a metropolitan city such as Alexandria, if a synagogue were discovered in the city center or along the central street, this would suggest a high level of acceptance by the general population for the Judean community. The prominence of the community would also be reflected in the existence of the synagogue, both in design and maintenance, as it would require great expense by the Judean community itself. Interestingly enough, inscriptions suggest that it was not only Judeans but also non-Judeans who made donations to the synagogue, perhaps in fulfillment of a vow. Under certain circumstances, some Christians even preferred to attend synagogue services rather than those of their own churches, as was the case in Antioch.


Location and the sheer existence of the synagogue aside, the orientation of the interior demonstrates a universal expression of loyalty, as each synagogue in antiquity was oriented towards Jerusalem. This suggests a preservation of the memory of the Temple as well as the history of the Judeans more generally. With each synagogue oriented towards Jerusalem, the community was reminded of the Temple as well as its destruction. The Jerusalem-oriented wall became a memorial that was repeated everywhere. It was along this wall that the Torah shrine was located, and despite the variations in style, including aedicula, niche, or apse form, the Torah shrine was the focal point of each synagogue, marking a change in significance for the institution following 70 CE by instilling a sacred or holy quality.

Aside from the presence of the Torah, there was one other feature that was widely spread in both Israel and Diaspora synagogues: purity concerns. Just as they - alongside sacrifice - dominated Temple Judaism, purity concerns persisted and were reflected in synagogue architecture. Whether they were incorporated into the design in the form of a fountain or basin, or the synagogue was merely located near a body of water, the necessity for water facilities was widely established in both Israel and the Diaspora. Despite the limited remains of miqva'ot near Diaspora synagogues, they were occasionally present in ancient Israel, perhaps as a lingering Temple tradition. Fountains, cisterns, or basins, on the other hand, were often located in the courtyard or entranceway of the Diaspora synagogue, suggesting a similar function to the miqva'ot, complementing the Mishnah and Tohorot, a post-70 CE construction expressing laws of purity, cleanliness, and uncleanliness. The existence of such concerns suggests that the synagogue represented more than a community center, while the inclusion of additional rooms and supportive inscriptional evidence indicates that the synagogue was more than a religious institution. The fact that this evidence is spread throughout the ancient Judean world, both within Israel and the Diaspora, demonstrates the expansive and diverse expressions of Judean identity in response to local influences and traditions.


Ultimately, the synagogue grew in popularity following the destruction of the Temple, allowing prayer and study to replace sacrificial practices as the means of serving God. Unlike the Temple, participation in the synagogue was open to the congregation members who were invited by the synagogue leaders to read scripture and even preach. Although the reading of the Torah became the prominent feature of the synagogue as is reflected through the universal inclusion of the Torah shrine in archaeological remains, the synagogue represented much more than a house of prayer. It was also an institution for teaching, lodging, communal meals, public fasts, judicial proceedings, public floggings, eulogies, nuptial matches, and so on. Essentially, the synagogue represented an ancient community centre, an institution that developed in various Judean communities throughout the ancient world in response to local social needs and preferences. As a result, the synagogue developed in the form of an assembly hall, and although architectural designs may vary, characteristic features such as the Torah shrine assist in identifying them within the archaeological record. Furthermore, the variety of architectural designs revealed that the existence of uniform worship did not require a uniform space.

The Nozyk Genizah Of Warsaw: Historic Torah Fragments Discovered In Poland

Shmuel Ben Eliezer examining the genizah while Poland’s chief rabbi (r) Michael Schudrich and Rabbi Moshe Bloom look on.

More than seven decades after the devastation of the Jewish community of Poland, there are still new discoveries being made on a regular basis.

The genizah before examination.

Recently a genizah of old Torah fragments called yeriot was discovered in the Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw. The Nozyk Synagogue was the only synagogue out of some 400 in Warsaw to survive the Shoah because the Germans decided to desecrate it by turning the beautiful, sacred place into a stable for their horses.

“We don’t know the exact origins of the genizah,” said Rabbi Moshe Bloom, rosh kollel of Nozyk, “but we can conjecture that after the Shoah the Nozyk Synagogue was returned to the Jewish community of Warsaw and it became a magnet for all things Jewish.

“Over the years, non-Jewish Poles would at times approach the synagogue, sometimes to honor lost friends, sometimes out curiosity, sometimes out of guilt. Some brought with them artifacts that they had kept hidden in their homes and felt a responsibility to return them. The Torah fragments were collected for eventual burial as prescribed by Jewish law.”

/>Special embellishments found on the last words of the Torah.

When I was recently in Warsaw Rabbi Bloom asked if I would be able to raise money to bury them with proper kavod and ceremony.

I wondered whether anybody had examined them.

Because, I told him, Torah scrolls from the pre-Shoah period had often been used for hundreds of years and therefore might have unique characteristics that are no longer in use. I asked Rabbi Bloom if I could examine the scrolls. He gave me permission to look them over and even photograph them.

A fragment showing unique tagim in Az Yashir.

The genizah consists of about 30 fragments (there are no complete scrolls), some only one or two columns and others much larger. Some showed signs of fire or water damage, slashes from knives, and other ravages of age and war. Almost all sections of the Torah are represented in the collection, from Bereishit to the end of Devarim.

Upon examination, I found that most of the fragments were very similar to those one would find in any synagogue today. A few of them looked to be over five hundred years old due to some of the variant letter shapes and tagim (crowns) that are no longer used.

When I returned to New York I visited with Rabbi Traube of Bais Hastam on 13 th Avenue in Boro Park. An expert in the laws, and lore of Torah scrolls, he helped me understand some of the history behind the strange letter forms.

He explained that tradition tells us that the form of the Torah we have today was copied by Eli HaKohen off the stones that Joshua had set up when he brought the Jews into the land of Israel after the death of Moses.

A burnt Torah fragment from the genizah.

For thousands of years these letter forms were the way all Torah scrolls were written it was only about 400 years ago that they began to be used less and less frequently. The Chatam Sofer in his Teshuvah 265 says that Jews stopped using them after a Torah scroll from Tzefat was found without them. He explains that the special letters and tagim were used to remind people of certain lessons in the Torah but since we do not learn from Torah scrolls (other than during prayers) they should no longer be used.

There are many books that describe the different letters and tagim. Torah Sheleimah by Menachem Mendel Kasher covers many of the letter forms and lists many sources. Sefer Tagi lists different letters and reports that the letter peh with the special shape can be found 191 times, the letter lamed 26 times, and the letter ayin eight times.

A fragment with the peh lafufa in the Torah portion describing the fight between Jacob and the angel.

The final disposition of the Nozyk genizah is still being decided. Many of the badly damaged yeriot will be buried while some of the others will be put on display thanks to generous support from Monika Krawczyk of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland ( The proposed exhibit will be located in the synagogue in the town of Leczna and hopefully include the complete story of stam — the writing of Torahs, mezuzahs, and tefillin.

Rabbi Traube of Bais Hastam was excited about the exhibit and is looking forward to making a special trip to Poland to examine the fragments for himself.

“It is rare enough to find a genizah,” he said. “We would be lucky to find one or two interesting items in a genizah but here they have so many it is truly a historic find.”

Monroe synagogue small but has rich history

Monroe has a broad spectrum of religious denominations represented in its various congregations. While the Temple B&rsquoNai Israel Synagogue, located at 141 East 8th Street in Monroe, is relatively small, its history and commitment to those area residents who practice Judaism is vast and worth noting on the pages of this column.

According to the Temple B&rsquoNai Israel Synagogue&rsquos website, the Temple B&rsquoNai Israel Synagogue congregation was officially dedicated on February 28, 1954. The current Temple B&rsquoNai Israel Synagogue building was constructed in 1953 and includes a plaque showing both the Gregorian calendar year (the calendar officially used by most countries on Earth today) and the Hebrew calendar year 5714. According to Hebrew tradition and Britannica, the Hebrew calendar started at the time of Creation and was placed at 3761 BCE. The current (2020/2021) Hebrew year is 5781.

The typical Hebrew year consists of 12 lunar months alternating between 29 and 30 days, with regular years containing the same number of months and 354 days. Lunar leap years contain 13 months and 384 days. The months Marcheshvan (Cheshvan) and Kislev &ndash the 8th and 9th months, respectively, are used to help manage the differences (known as cheserah, or a deficient year, as opposed to a shlemah, or complete year).

The Jewish year begins on Rosh Hashana &ndash the Jewish New Year celebrated 163 days after the first day of Passover on Tishrei 1. In 2021, Rosh Hashana will mark its Gregorian calendar equivalent on Tuesday, September 7 and typically lasts two days.

According to 2018 data, the Temple B&rsquoNai Israel Synagogue had a membership of 22 families, was not affiliated with any national Jewish faith organization (such as the National Havurah Committee and others) and adheres to a combination of conservatism and reformed Jewish religious practices. Nationally, Conservative Judaism was organized by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in the U.S and rose in popularity during the 1950s. Similarly, Reform Judaism had its roots in various movements, including the Union for Reform Judaism which took place in Cincinnati on July 8, 1873, Liberal Judaism which was launched on February 16, 1902 in London, and the Movement for Reform Judaism, launched on January 4, 1942 in Midland Manchester, United Kingdom, among others.

The Temple B&rsquoNai Israel Synagogue has several major events held throughout the year. One of those events is Purim, reading the Megillah. The Megillah is identified as any of the five sacred books of the Ketuvim (the third division of the Old Testament), in scroll form, that are read in a synagogue in the course of certain festivals held there. Another major event at the Temple B&rsquoNai Israel Synagogue are the High Holiday services. Also known as the High Holy Days, the High Holidays include the reflective Hebrew Biblical readings and prayers associated with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Another important event at the Temple B&rsquoNai Israel Synagogue is the Chanukah or Hanukkah celebrations. Known as the Jewish festival of rededication, Chanukah or Hanukkah -- also known as the Festival of Lights -- is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. The holiday&rsquos celebrations include the lighting of the menorah. In 2021, Chanukah or Hanukkah will be held from November 28, 2021 to December 6, 2021. (25 Kislev to 2 Tevet 5782 in the Hebrew calendar).

The mission of the Temple B&rsquonai Israel Monroe reads: Our Temple is a Jewish Temple whose purpose is to promote the faith of Judaism and practice of its principles throughout our daily lives.

Jewish Settlement

The Jews were first recorded in Barbados in 1628, one year after the English settled the island. They were Sephardic Jews that came primarily from Recife in northwest Brazil. Their clan had originally fled Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition period, seeking refuge in Brazil, which was under Dutch rule for a brief period. When Portugal reclaimed Brazil as their colony, they expelled the Dutch, resulting in some Jews fleeing to Barbados and beyond in the early 17th century.

By the mid 17th century, there is further documented evidence of the presence of a Jewish community in Barbados:

The 1654 Minutes of the Council of Barbados…

A further Order was recorded at a 1655 Meeting of the Council of Barbados, such that…

Following initial settlement, Jews from England also settled in Barbados. Oliver Cromwell issued a pass in 1655 to Dr. Abraham de Mercado to go to Barbados to practice his profession. He was accompanied by his son, David Raphael de Mercado, who subsequently invented a new type of sugar mill for use in Barbados it was also introduced to other islands in the Caribbean. Note that the oldest tombstone in the burial ground by the Synagogue bears the name David de Mercado, 1658.

By the 1660’s, the Jews had established a monopoly in the Barbados sugar industry, thus incurring the jealousy of non-Jewish planters. Non-Jewish merchants and traders on the island discriminated against them. Jewish success was based on their business acumen and profound knowledge of the industry.

Although the early Jewish settlers had to struggle under unfair practices, they nevertheless prospered but their prosperity was met by a number of sanctions. They were not allowed to retail any goods, and were forbidden from trading with the coloured population of the island. Additionally, local authorities imposed a tax on all sugar manufactured by them.

By 1679, there were about 300 Jews living in Barbados. Their numbers peaked in the 1700’s to 800 people.

For 112 years the Jews in Barbados continued to live and work under discrimination of one kind or another. Not until 1831 were they granted permanent and practical freedom in both civil and political matters. Noteworthy is the fact that this liberty was granted to them two years before it was given to Jews in the UK.

The Jews of Barbados developed two synagogues on the island: one in Bridgetown in 1654, the Nidhe Israel Synagogue, and a smaller one in the north in Speightstown. The latter property no longer exists. In 1831, a hurricane destroyed the Nidhe Israel Synagogue. Ninety worshippers at that time raised funds for its reconstruction, which was completed in 1833. It measured 2,000 sq.ft. with a 300 person capacity.

The natural disaster in 1831 curtailed business opportunities on the island, causing the majority of the Jewish community to migrate to the UK and USA where they made substantial contributions. For example, they helped start Rhode Island’s oldest Jewish congregation. Also, it was a Barbadian Jew that pioneered the cultivation of tobacco in Virginia.

In 1873, the remaining Jews in Barbados petitioned for tax relief, which was granted in 1874, so the synagogue and other Jewish property were exempted from parochial and other taxes.

By the early 20 th century, there were only 2 practicing members of the Jewish community in Barbados. They continued to maintain the synagogue and cemetery until 1929. The synagogue was then sold and subsequently used as commercial offices and a law library. It is noteworthy that descendants of the Sephardic community remain on the island today. A new influx of Ashkenazi Jews arrived in Barbados in 1932 from Europe, and relatives of this group currently reside on the island.

Members of that group still reside on the island to date.

In 1979, the Barbados Cabinet made the decision to demolish the Synagogue building and use the site for the development of a new Supreme Court, but members of the Jewish community and the Barbados National Trust convinced Government to protect the building and the site. Hence in 1983, the Government acquired the Synagogue building, thereby halting plans for demolition. They then agreed to vest the building in the Barbados National Trust in 1985.

By 1986, the Synagogue Restoration Project was initiated. Funds were raised both locally and internationally. The original design of the early synagogue was recreated through the use of old photographs obtained from the Barbados Museum. The site remains a symbol of the Jewish community of Barbados, their contribution to Barbadian society, and their link with the past.

An excerpt from the 1942 Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society encapsulates the spirit of the original Barbados Jewish community:

Watch the video: Visit to Nozyk Synagogue, Warsaw, Poland (January 2022).