Yiddish: Linsk, Lisk
The late Gothic parish church of the Visitation of the Most Holy
Virgin Mary (first half of the 16th century), remodelled (the neo-Gothic
tower from the end of the 19th century); the Kmita family castle from
the 16th century, with a dwelling tower in late Gothic and Renaissance
styles; the 16th-century fortifications, now terrace gardens; the houses
from the 18th and 19th centuries, including an inn. Lesko is a starting
point for trips to the north-east ranges of the Bieszczady and Gory
Slone. The Zalew Solinski (an artificial lake on the River Solina) with
numerous recreational centres is located 16 km to the north.
The first settlers arrived in Lesko sometime before 1542 and made
their living from trade, butchery, goldsmithery, brewing and tailoring.
Many travelled with their goods even to distant mountain villages. The
kahal was formed at the end of the 16th century and assumed adominant
position in the Sanok area. The end of the 18th century saw the rise of
Chasidism, which triumphed in Lesko as well. Even tzaddikim appeared
here, the best known being Samuel Szmelke. Deterioration in the town's
economic situation in the 19th century meant that many Jews began moving
to neighbouring villlages. In September 1939, Lesko found itself inside
the Soviet Union. Jews were persecuted for ideological reasons,
although the criterion was not race, as under Nazi occupation, but
social standing. They were deported into the depths of Russia. The
Germans arrived in Lesko on 24 June 1941. They established aghetto,
which they then liquidated in August 1942, sending all those imprisoned
there to death camps.
The synagogue was built sometime between 1626 and 1654, and so the
middle of the 17th century is most often cited. The building was not
heated, so it functioned only in summer. In winter the main prayer hall
was used for Friday night and Saturday morning services only. On all
other occasions they were held in two small prayer houses adjacent to
the entrance. After several hundred years of peaceful existence the
synagogue was seriously damaged by the Germans. Twenty years after the
war it was still in ahalf-destroyed state.
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The synagogue, photo
Erected in stone and rectangular in shape, it has an extension
containing aprayer room for women. The inscription on the front wall
proclaims: "What fear this place fills us with! There isnothing here but
ahouse of God". The aron ha-kodesh is framed by half-columns crowned
with atympanum, similar to that in the famous but no longer existing
Golden Rose synagogue in Lvov. The iron doors date from the 19th
century. Aparticular feature is the tower which during post-war repair
works was raised even higher. The stone steps and the cellar remain. The
tower served as aprison for the Lesko Jewish community which had
judicial autonomy. The synagogue now houses the Art Gallery of the
Bieszczady House of Culture. Parts of the bimah, stolen sometime before
1947, can now be seen in the house in Plac Konstytucji 3 Maja (once an
Armenian shrine) where they were used as construction elements for the
balcony, as well as in one of the houses in ul. Unii Brzeskiej.
At the crossroads of ul. Berka Joselewicza and ul. Moniuszki.
The Jewish Cemetery
Legend has it that here is the resting-place of the founders of the
Lesko Jewish community, some Spanish rabbis driven out of their country
in the 16th century. The oldest of the remaining tombstone inscriptions
reads as follows (ashortened version): "Here lies the pious man,
Eliezer, son of rabbi Meshulam, may the memory of the righteous be
blessed. He died on the 9th day of Tishri in the year 309 according to
the abbreviated date record". The cemetery is three hectares in size and
contains around five hundred matzevot.
From the synagogue go down ul. Moniuszki (follow the route marked in
blue). At the point where ul. Moniuszki and ul. Zrodlowa cross, alittle
further back on the right there is agate with stars of David on it.
Take the steps behind it and walk up.
Up to the German occupation the town had many houses of prayer.
They were all in close proximity to the existing synagogue, whether on
the other side of the street or where there was a block of dwellings (to
the north west of the synagogue). There was the Old Synagogue (built
sometime before 1838); the New Synagogue (located in the same building
and used as a meeting-place by the communal fraternities); Sandzer Kloyz
where the followers of the Halberstams from Nowy Sacz gathered (the
rabbi of Lesko was a member of this community); and Sadygorer Kloyz, for
the followers of Izrael Friedmann, opponents of the Nowy Sacz Chasidim.