Yiddish: Tiktin

Tourist Attractions
The main market square and the memorial to Stefan Czarniecki (dated 1763); a magnificent post-missionary monastery complex, founded by J.K. Branicki, with the Church of the Holy Trinity (1742-1749); the military seminary (1634-1638); the houses from the 18th and 19th centuries; the remains of the Renaissance castle of King Sigismund Augustus on the right bank of the River Narew.

Of all the Jewish towns in Podlasie, Tykocin is without doubt the one which is most worth avisit. Jews arrived here in 1522, invited by Olbracht Gasztolt, the governor of the Vilna and Troki (Trakai) regions, to enhance local trade and handicraft. The undertaking was supported by two Polish kings: Stefan Batory, who granted Jews the privilege of settlement in 1576 and Ladislaus IV, in 1633. The Tykocin kahal achieved great significance. It encompassed every Jewish community within aradius of 150 km and played an important role in the Diet of Lithuanian Jews. In the second half of the 19th century Tykocin began to lose out to its competitor Białystok and the town started to fall into decline. In the 19th century Jews formed over 60% of the population, but because the railway line avoided the town an economic crisis ensued, causing people to emigrate. Before the outbreak of the Second World War Jews constituted 44% of the population, approximately 2,000 people. One of the ways they made aliving was from the production of tallitim.
There was aHebrew school as well asthe Zionist youth movement He-chalutz. The last rabbi was Abraham Zwi Pinchos. The Holocaust reached Tykocin on 5 August 1941 when the Germans shot dead 1,400 people and deported the rest to the Bialystok Ghetto. The largest Jewish presence was in the neighbourhood of the Jewish market and the Great Synagogue in the western district of Kaczorowo, along ul. Holendry and ul. Pilsudskiego. The community institutions: the rabbi's house, smaller houses of prayer, and the ritual bath all concentrated around the spot where the River Motlawa flows into the River Narew.
Awalk in Tykocin, taking around an hour, is an indispensable part of the trip. The most interesting streets are ul. Pilsudskiego and ul. Kaczorowska. In ul. Pilsudskiego, opposite the synagogue, you will find aplaque commemorating Markus Zamenhof, the father of Ludwik. The house at ul. Kaczorowska 1 is adorned with the Star of David. The Tykocin Jewish cemetery is located in ul. Pilsudskiego and surrounded by aconcrete wall. The fairly large site contains numerous toppled gravestones with the illegible inscriptions. By the road to Łopuchowo there is a place marked with amemorial, where the execution of Jews by the Nazis took place in 1941. It is accessible by taxi from the bus stop.

The synagogue was erected on the site of the former house of prayer in the centre of the Jewish quarter of Kaczorowo situated on an island which existed there at that time. Its construction was inspired by the desire to erect asynagogue worthy of the local kahal which exercised authority over the communities of Bialystok and Grajewo. According to some sources, it is modelled on the fortified synagogue in Pinsk, built in 1640. It is asquare building (18m by 18m) with atower in the north-east corner. It used to perform many functions, being home to institutions such as the kahal and the court of law. The tower was used as aprison. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was agreat centre of intellect. The Talmudists studied and taught here, and among them scholars such as Menachem David ben Yitzhak, the pupil of Moses Isserles (Remuh) from Cracow, Shmuel Eliezer ben Yehuda ha-Levi Edels, Joshua ben Josef Elijahu Shapira and Eliezer Rokeach. Redecorated in the 1840s, it was renowned for its rich furnishings, including valuable ark curtains. The Germans stripped it bare during the Second World War. The looted building was restored in the 1970sand turned into a museum. The nearby market stalls were never rebuilt.
The entrance leads you through the pulish, aspacious hallway which once housed the kahal and the court. From here you can walk into the main prayer hall for men. The lowering of the level of the floor is the implementation of the words of apsalmist: "From the depth Icall Thee, Lord". The hall is nine meters high. The exhibition in the synagogue is one of the most interesting displays of Jewish heritage in Poland. The bimah occupies the centre of the prayer hall. It does not contain achair for circumcisions.

The interior of the synagogue and the bima, photo

The nine-bay vaulting is typical of Polish synagogues. The wall paintings are very interesting. They contain biblical texts in Aramaic and Hebrew, as well as painted decorations depicting twigs and animal motifs. New discoveries are being made in the building all the time. The oldest and most original features show up only when surface layers are removed. Some items from the interior, for example the candlesticks, have been re-created with the aid of old photographs taken by Szymon Zajczyk. The parochet is completely new (agift from rabbi Schudrich and the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation). The collection of artistic handicraft is quite astounding. Here you can find silver spice boxes, eight-light Chanukah lamps, and vessels used during the festival of Pesach. The phylacteries, little boxes made of leather which contain verses from the Bible written on parchment, are particularly special.

The building next to the synagogue, now housing the museum and the Tejsha restaurant, is the former beit ha-midrash (house of study). It was erected in the period from 1772 to 1798. Totally destroyed during the Second World War, it was rebuilt in 1972. In recent years it underwent repair and remodelling during which anew roof was put on.

The Tykocin Museum, abranch of the Podlaskie Museum in Bialystok, ul. Kozia 2, phone +85 7181626. The synagogue is open from 10am to 5pm with the exception of Mondays, Fridays and the days following major holidays. Last visitors are admitted at 4.30pm. Tickets 5 zl, concessions 3 zl; Saturdays entrance free.

The figure of Rivka Tiktiner who lived in the first half of the 16th century is closely connected with the history of Tykocin. She was one of the very few women who gained respect as a religious authority in Judaism. As daughter of rabbi Mayer from Tykocin, she learned Hebrew and studied the Torah. She published her work Meneket Rivka (Rebeca the Feeder) about raising children and the duties of women. The book, published in 1609 in Prague and in 1618 in Cracow, was written in Yiddish in order to reach the greatest number of uneducated female readers. Rivka Tiktiner, an extraordinary character for her time, was the focus of great interest in Europe. In 1719 her monograph was published in Germany, under the title: De Rebecca Polona eruditarum in gente Judaica Foeminarium rariori exemplo (On Rebecca of Poland, the Rarest Example of a Female Scholar from
the Jewish Nation).

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