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The Old Synagogue: ul. Szeroka 24
The oldest synagogue in Poland, the original building was built at the beginning of the 15th century, however, it was rebuilt in 1570 under the careful guidance of an Italian architect, Matteo Gucci.
During the Second World War German forces used the synagogue as a storeroom, they were also responsible for completely ruining its interior. When the war ended the synagogue remained in its destroyed state until 1956 when a programme of restoration and rebuilding began. Completed in 1959, the day to day running of the synagogue was transferred from the local Jewish Council to the Krakow Historical Museum becoming the Branch of Jewish History and Culture.
Few elements of the pre-war synagogue remain; for example the very impressive bimah is a reconstruction of the original. The Aron Kodesh, fragments of rediscovered murals and a collection box found just inside the main prayer room are some of the surviving original features of the synagogue.
Before the war, the synagogue had a hugely important role within the Jewish community. Its status as a community synagogue, open to all, ensured that it was not only a place of religious worship, but also of authority. It's no surprise that in 1794 General Tadeusz Kosciuszko spoke from the synagogue in order to encourage the Jews to support him in the battle for Polish independence. A plaque in the entrance hall commemorates this event:
"The Jews proved to the world that whenever humanity can gain, they would not spare themselves." General Tadeusz Kosciuszko
Today the Old Synagogue houses a permanent and fascinating exhibition of Jewish culture and its traditions, with a particular focus on Krakow's Jews. For example, visitors can learn about the significance of Passover, its history as well as the customs associated with this religious festival. This approach is also used for other religious festivals and ceremonies.
In many cases the synagogue also has corresponding items that are relevant to the particular aspect of Jewish culture that is being shown. In the section devoted to marriage, visitors will see a marriage contract. There are also other sections dealing with birth, prayer rituals, diet, divorce and death.
Included in the exhibition are Torah scroll covers, menorahs and yarmulkes, certification stamps to show that meat was kosher, bowls for the ritual washing of hands and even a spinning top, a toy that is often associated with Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights. (This list is by no means exhaustive, further details on the exhibition can be found on the museum's website).
There are also historical pictures and works of art in the synagogue, a number of these pictures show Jewish life not only in Krakow, but in other areas of Poland as well. The beautiful women's prayer room, which dates from the 17th century, is often used to hold temporary exhibitions.
Well organised, the Krakow Historical Museum have done a wonderful job in producing an exhibition that informs and educates. An architectural delight, anyone visiting the synagogue leaves with a fascinating insight into Jewish life and culture.
|Winter season from 2nd November until 30th March
from 1st April until 31st October
Free of charge
|Monday 10.00 - 14.00 Free of charge
||7 zloty & 5 zloty for students
Group ticket for schools: 4.50 zloty
Family ticket: 14 zloty
Guide: 40 zloty per group + entrance fee
Photography: 10 zloty
Workshop: 120 zloty per group
Audio-guide: 10 zloty (Available in English,German or Hebrew).
|Tuesday - closed
||Tuesday 10.00 - 17.00
|Wednesday 9.00 - 16.00
||Wednesday 10.00 - 17.00
|Thursday 9.00 - 16.00
||Thursday 10.00 - 17.00
|Friday 10.00 - 17.00
||Friday 10.00 - 17.00
|Saturday 9.00 - 16.00
||Saturday 10.00 - 17.00
|Sunday 9.00 - 16.00
||Sunday 10.00 - 17.00