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The Remuh Synagogue and Old Cemetery: Ul. Szeroka 40
It's easy to forget walking around the synagogues of Kazimierz that not so long ago these synagogues were vibrant places of prayer, providing a focal point for the Jewish community that lived here. The Remuh Synagogue maintains this link with the past being the only synagogue still used for worship.
It still retains a huge significance for many Jews across the world who come to worship at the grave of Rabbi Moses Isserles. Rabbi Moses was regarded as a great author and scholar, perhaps his most notable piece of work being the Mappa - the Tablecloth, a religious-legal work which focuses on Ashkenazic customs. Many pilgrims leave notes on the Rabbi's grave asking him to intercede on their behalf with God. The synagogue is commonly referred to as the Remuh which is derived from the Hebrew acronym of Rabbi Moses Isserles - Rema.
The original synagogue was founded in 1553 but was destroyed by fire with a replacement being built in 1557. The building's current architecture can be traced back to 1829 when restoration work was undertaken.
The smallest synagogue in Kazimierz it has an atmosphere all of its own. A cobbled courtyard with white walls greets visitors to the Remuh; these walls contain stone tablets commemorating deceased Jews, some of them victims of the Holocaust.
During the Nazi occupation the Remuh's interior was decimated, ceremonial objects were robbed and furnishings destroyed. After the war the synagogue again came under the authority of the Jewish Denominational Council and as a result of their efforts its pre-war appearance was restored in 1957.
Despite the damage caused during the war, some elements of the original synagogue remain, for instance, a collection box dating from the 16th century can be found just by the door to the prayer room of the synagogue. The Aron-Kodesh, in which the Torah is stored, is also an original feature and dates from 1558.
Simple in appearance, the most instantly striking feature of the synagogue is the bimah. The wrought iron surround is an exact copy of that found at the synagogue before the war. Although not part of the original design, the bimah has a polychromed double door which is ornately decorated with a menorah, flowers and fruit baskets. The history surrounding this particular aspect of the synagogue is unknown, the doors are a post-war feature, it is thought likely that they came from another synagogue outside of Krakow.
The cemetery was founded at around the same time as the synagogue and is one of the oldest in Poland. It was used for burials up until 1800 and although some burials took place after this time the cemetery gradually fell into disrepair.
The cemetery was all but destroyed during the Second World War and the site used as a rubbish dump. Remarkably, one of the few gravestones to survive was that of Rabbi Moses (Remuh). Some Jews take this as a sign of his holiness and power.
In 1959 the cemetery was renovated and reconstructed in the form that can be seen today. Many of the tombstones are no longer in their original place having been dug out of the ground during the renovation of the cemetery. Small fragments from tombstones that were too small to be used again were used to create what is now known as Krakow's Wailing Wall.
The Remuh Synagogue and the old cemetery is a reminder of a life gone by, a place of pilgrimage and a historical treasure.
Opening times and prices:
The synagogue is open from 9:00am to 6:00pm in the summer and until 4:00pm in the winter (November-April). Please note the synagogue sometimes closes before 4:00pm during the winter months, depending on when the sun sets or on religious services. The synagogue is closed on Saturdays and during Jewish holidays.
Admission to the synagogue and cemetery is 5zl and the money goes towards restoration of the site.