Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Scheinbach Synagogue

Writer and historian Diana Muir Appelbaum, a friend of this blog, has pointed me to an interesting write-up on Przemysl's Scheinbach Synagogue, also known as the New Synagogue, at the Przemysl Library site

The Ignacy Krasicki Przemyśl Public Library is located in the younger of the four existing before the war Przemyśl synagogue. This synagogue was currently called the "Naje Schul" (New School). It belonged to the Przemyśl New Synagogue Association which members were in favour of the "Askenazy style" prayers. The planning of this building was initiated in 1905 by the well known Jewish Przemyśl activist Moishe Scheinbach. The construction began, with the financial help of the City Council and different Jewish banks, in 1910. It was planned by the Polish architect Stanisław Majerski (1872-1926) from the Lwów Politechnical School who was very popular at that time in Przemyśl. The main works were finished just before the beginning of the First World War but the construction was not ready at that time.

It was built in the mauretano-eclectist style. It is a two-stories building made of bricks and separated from neighboring buildings. Its entrance is oriented to the West. The building has a basement and its rusticated ground-floor is separated by a mould with a range of decorations. All its windows are closed by a complete arch. Pilasters are indicating the axis. The extreme ones and the central one are indicated at the level of the roof by complete arches and the central one is also indicated by a round window with the David star. The synagogue is covered by a steel roof with a rectangular platform construction. In the roof, there is a range of little windows and moulds. In the interior of the synagogue there is a big prayer room with galleries for the women in the West and the South.

The finishing works were made only in 1918. In this purpose, the Jewish Przemyśl artist Adolf Bienenstock (1888-1937) was employed. He was graduated from the Cracov Fine Art Academy and was the student of Józef Mehoffer. The polichromies he made on the walls and the roof of the synagogue were linked with biblical themes and Jewish legends. He also planned the very beautiful stained-glass windows according to original Jewish motives. They were giving to this synagogue a unique attractiveness and its decoration was considered to be the most beautiful Jewish monument of the religious art in the inter-war Poland.

During the Second World war the synagogue was not destroyed by the Germans because they used it as a stable for their army horses. After the war the synagogue was first changed into a textile warehouse. Later it was taken over by the State which tried to adapt it for school purposes. At the beginning of the sixties, after a consultation with Jewish organizations of Poland, it was decided to transfer the building in the hand of the City State Library. The works to adapt the building were finished in 1966 and from the 1st march of 1967 the building is used by the Library. In 1978, after having obtained the agreement of the Union of Jewish Religious Associations of Poland, the building including the place, was given to the property of the State Library. Now more than 133 000 books and reviews are contained in its walls. There are inside the main reading-room, the children reading-room, the hiring department. The Library is carrying exhibitions, lectures and publishing activities and several other forms of cultural and educative activities for the city of Przemyśl and its region.

- - Stanisław Stępień.
The synagogue/library stands today at ul. J. SŁOWACKIEGO 15, just up from the Plac na Brame.

Below is a scan from the Sefar Przemysl showing the ceiling of the New Synagogue. It must have been stunning...



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