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Ohel David Synagogue,Pune, India The New Synagogue, Berlin, Germany
Nozyk Synagogue, Warsaw, Poland - Famous Synagogues
382    Dibyendu Banerjee    09/12/2023

Tucked away on a side street in central Warsaw, the heart of the city’s old Jewish centre and located at 6 Twarda Street, the Nożyk Synagogue was built between 1898 and 1902 at the initiative of Zalman and Rywka Nożyk, two wealthy Jewish philanthropists. Designed by the reputed architect Leandro Marconi and built in Neo-Romanesque style, the relatively small synagogue in Warsaw, with a seating accommodation of only 350 people, was consecrated on 12 May 1902.

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It is interesting to note that during that time, Warsaw had more than 400 synagogues among which the Great Synagogue in Warsaw, equipped with a seating capacity of more than 2000 and considered as the largest in the world when it was built in 1878, was blown up by the Nazis in mid-May 1943, marking their victory over the Warsaw Ghetto fighters. However, the Nożyk Synagogue is the only synagogue in Warsaw that survived the devastation of WWII, as the Germans desecrated it in 1941 and converted the building as a stable and storage house and although it was damaged during the Warsaw Uprising, it remained intact as the only Jewish place of worship on the left bank of the River Vistula in the former bustling Jewish centre of the city. Today, apart from serving as the primary place of worship for the Jewish community in Warsaw, hosting regular prayer services, including Sabbath and holiday services and occasionally holding special events such as concerts, the Nożyk Synagogue also houses the Warsaw Jewish Commune, as well as other Jewish organizations.

noyk synagogue warsaw poland

The Nozyk synagogue is a rectangular two-story edifice, constructed in the neo-Romanesque style with elements of Byzantine, Romanesque and also Moorish ornamentation, a style that was in vogue during the second half of the 19th century.

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The western façade of the building is equipped with a portal featuring the two Tablets of the Law and is divided into three sections with the entrance at the centre, flanked by two high symmetric windows topped by round arches at its sides. The upper floor of the façade is divided into two sections and while the lower section features four symmetric windows, the upper one has a prominent Star of David, also called the Magen David, the generally recognized symbol of both Jewish identity and Judaism and also a Romanesque style cornice.

noyk synagogue warsaw poland

The interior of the Nozyk synagogue has an entrance hall housing the table for the Jewish memorial service or prayer for the dead, known as the Yizkor, decorated with memorial candles, but the women’s section is accessed from a separate entrance and stairway on the southern wall. The main prayer room is also divided between the men’s and women's section. While the men’s section is located on the ground floor, the women’s section is on the upper floor, equipped with two galleries supported by the arcades of columns on both lateral sides of the prayer hall.

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The columns of the prayer hall and the balustrade of the balconies of the women’s section contain beautiful Moorish-style decorations in white painted stucco. The Holy Ark, a typical structure influence by the Romanesque style of architecture, along with a covering supported by eight columns, is situated at the eastern end. While the apse of the synagogue, reserved for the choir, houses the organ, the elevated bimah, a raised platform containing the reading table for chanting or reading portions of the Torah, is located at the centre of the eastern half of the ground floor.

noyk synagogue warsaw poland

Following minor repairs, the Nozyk Synagogue opened again after the end of the Great War and became the new centre of worship for the city’s small, remaining Jewish community. But it was forced to close again in 1968, when after several student protests against the imposition of censorship and Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War, the ruling Polish United Workers' Party of the Polish People's Republic, with the aim to create a Communist society, waged an anti- Semitic campaign. During that time, numerous Jews were ousted from their workplaces, many were stripped of their citizenship and thousands were exiled from the country. However, although the Nożyk Synagogue was forced to close, it continued to be the centre of Jewish life in the city and its services were continued in a single room in a nearby building.

noyk synagogue warsaw poland

However, the situation changed in 1977, when the Synagogue was allowed to begin extensive renovations and after the completion of the job, along with the construction of an annex to the building to house the Warsaw Jewish Community Centre, funded by the Ronald S Lauder Foundation, it rose like a Phoenix, when it reopened in April 1983. Unfortunately, the beautiful synagogue with its rich history had to face numerous anti-Semitic attacks of vandalism and arson during the 1990’s and is now guarded by an armed security force. Nevertheless, despite everything, the Nożyk Synagogue, the centre of Jewish life and a remarkable testament to an extraordinary resilient Jewish community in Warsaw, now not only serves as their beloved place of worship, but also as a centre of Jewish culture, an important venue for concerts, exhibitions and for holding important meetings, attended by foreign dignitaries.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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