The Dawna Synagogue in Zamosc, Poland
Haim F. Ghiuzeli
The first synagogue in Zamosc was built in the 1590’s as a wooden structure. The building of a brick edifice in accordance with the privileges granted to the local Jewish community was undertaken after 1610 and continued for eight years. The Dawna (“Old”) synagogue is a prominent example of late Renaissance Polish style in harmony with the general urban design of the old town of Zamosc. The exterior walls have been extended to conceal the roof giving the building a general aspect of a fortress. The prayer hall (11,6 x 12,2 m.) represents the core of the building; the women’s prayer rooms were added towards the middle of the 17th century. Similar to that found in other Polish synagogues, the floor was lowered in order to increase the height of the interior. The walls were decorated with rich paintings in vermilion stuccoes with floral motives including a stylized tree of life, crowns, rosettes, and Hebrew inscriptions. During the 18th century, a modest entrance hall was added on the west side of the prayer hall, while the attic was disregarded. The synagogue was renovated in the second half of the 19th century when the building received a new roof and an attic. At the same time a second floor was built over the original women’s prayer rooms.
Photo: S. Zajczyk. Beit Hatfutsot, the Oster Visual Documentation Center. Courtesy of Leah Sandel, Israel
During the Holocaust the building suffered major damage, especially of the northern parts that were destroyed by the Germans. The synagogue was vandalized and looted, and then used as a stable. It was rebuilt, following WW2, in 1948-1950 and since 1958 the building has served as a library. A second restoration of the building was conducted during 1967-1972. Some traces of the synagogue’s former splendor can be discerned inside the building. The place of the Aron Ha-Kodesh is evident on the eastern wall. The niche that sheltered the Torah scrolls is decorated with motives of vessels – symbol of Levites, and crown of Torah. The iron octagonal bimah with a Torah crown was located at the center of the prayer hall and was a gift by Shmuel Barzel, 1787. The prayer hall also boasted a number of majestic menorahs. Today there are no remains either of the bimah or the candelabra.
Ul. Zamenhofa 11
Next to the building of the synagogue is the former office of the community, dating from the 18th century with additions from the 19th century, and the heder. The 18th century building of the former mikve, renovated in the 19th century, is located in the cellars at Ul. Zamenhofa 3.
Related article: the Jewish Community of Zamosc