Workers setting up the Disco in the former Beit Midrash. Frescoes clearly seen on walls. also niche where ark was. Photo © Mateusz Skwarczek / Agencja Gazeta
Alarming news from Krakow.
The rundown Chewra Thilim (Psalm Brotherhood) Beit Midrash, or prayer house, where valuable wall paintings representing holy places and animals were discovered in 2008, has been turned into a disco club that opens this weekend. Called “Mezcal”, the club, according to local media, is to feature hard rock music, all-night “cool dance parties with DJs and agressive, even metal concerts.”
The building, at the corner of Meisels and Bozego Ciala streets was designed by Nachman Kopald and built in 1896. Used by a dance ensemble after WW2, it was restituted to the Krakow Jewish community in 2001. Vacant since 2006 and unmaintained, it was rented out by the community as a commercial property.
Alarm over the fate of the building already has been raised for some time — participants in the Managing Jewish Immovable Heritage conference visited it last month after the president of Beit Krakow, the city’s small reform congregation (which had proposed to obtain the site for its own use), informed conference organizers that she believed it would be turned into a restaurant.
She said the delicate frescoes, which were discovered in 2008, are not on Krakow’s list of protected heritage, “which in practice means that there is no obligation for the inner structure of the building … to be appropriately respected in the course of the renovation.”
The transformation into a disco club flies in the face of best practices (such as those found in the Bratislava Statement), but it is not clear what, if anything, can be done now. What to do with such sites — and how to do it — were key issues at last month’s Managing Jewish Heritage conference.
The newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza on Wednesday ran an article with graphic photos of technicians setting up a sound system and installing a bar in the main room — the frescoes can be clearly seen, but it is not clear whether walls are being built in front of them to protect them.
A translation of the article reads:
On Saturday, May 11th at 8 pm in the district of Kazimierz (two floors of a tenement house at 18 Meiselsa Street) a new club will be opened – Mezcal. Among the artists which will perform will be Agressiva 69 and Sound Q. Furthermore, we will party until early morning with DJ ANthill and DJ Greg Crack. The set of artists is not a coincidence, since the club’s musical program is coordinated by Tomek Grochola from Agressiva 69. – This first evening will show how much varied the music we will play. There will be the electro Sound Q, some harder, rock music by Agressiva 69 and really good DJ’s – he says. – And this is how we want it, both, cool dance parties with DJ’s and agressive, even metal concerts. We don’t want the club to be seen as a techno joint. We also think of exhibitions and movie screenings.
“Just like the Mexican Mezcal is controversial, it penetrates your sight, your smell and taste, we will consequently surprise you and penetrate your senses” – this is how the creators of the club advertise it in an invitation.
The situation drew an outraged comment on the newspaper’s web site.