Plans to move a rare, surviving private prayer house in Kielce to the Jewish cemetery

Detail of wall painting of a lion. Photo: Jan Karski Society

The town of Kielce in south-central Poland is infamous as the site of the July 4, 1946 pogrom against Holocaust survivors that killed at least 42 Jews. But the town has several important sites of Jewish heritage, including a Jewish cemetery, the synagogue building (now a state archive) and — one of the very few surviving private prayer houses in Poland, a small, free-standing building in a courtyard of a tenement (at Slowackiego 4) that was built in 1922 by the leading Kielce businessman Herszel Zagajski. The owner of important Wietrznia quarry,  Zagajski was also known for his social and philanthropic activities.

An initiative to save the building and transfer it to the Jewish cemetery, where it is envisaged that it would form a culture and educational center anchoring a memorial complex, was advanced in September 2012 by Bogdan Białek, president of the Jan Karski Society, an NGO that (among other things) manages the Kielce Jewish cemetery.  An agreement with city officials was signed to that effect on Sept. 10, 2012. The Society is seeking funds for the ambitious undertaking.

Current state of the building. Photo: Jan Karski Society

Artist's rendition of planned memorial center. Photo: Jan Karski Society

Though ravaged in WW2 and used as a warehouse for chimney brushes afterward, the walls of the sanctuary (which measures 54 square meters and seated about 80 people) still conserves some lovely wall paintings.

Detail of interior wall paintings. Photo © Virtual Shtetl/Andrzej Konopacki

The Jan Karski Society reports that the initiative to transfer the building has won the backing of Mayor Wojciech Lubawski and Janusz Cedro, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship Conservator. The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ) would be a partner in the project.

After the translocation the  building will be renovated and expanded. As a result the Place of Memory and Reflection ”Beit ha Midrasz” will be created. Itwill be an educational and cultural center  led by Society. This undertaking  is very expensive, therefore along with New Space Arts Foundation, the current owner of the object, we try to obtain  finances from Norway Funds. 

 

See more details on the Jan Karski Society web site here

See more pictures and details about the building at Virtual Shtetl, here

 

 

 

 

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  1. Pingback: Poland notes | Jewish Heritage Europe

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