The synagogue in Warsaw's Praga district
Because of the strict regulations
related to the acquisition of property by Jews and their freedom to
settle in the city, they were not allowed to live in the center of
left-bank Warsaw until the Enlightenment-era reforms, when regulations
were relaxed. The coming decades saw the decline of the Commonwealth,
partitions and positivistic social changes that brought about a change
in the attitude towards the Jewish population. Their settlement was
looked on with approval, particularly in depopulated areas and those
destroyed by numerous wars and armed conflicts (i.e., uprisings).
As the audit of 1819 in Praga notes, the first synagogue was
housed in a “…wooden house of Berk Szmul, covered with shingles…”, and
served as a place of prayer for approximately twenty Jews. Around the
year 1835, the number of Jewish families in Praga began to grow, and
families appeared that would become very important there, including the
Pasmenters, Posners, Datyners, Dancyngiers, Rubinlichts, Bergsons and
Feigenbaums. As the Jewish community expanded, plans were made to build a
more impressive synagogue than the place of prayer had been up to this
point – improvised and wooden. The municipal authorities granted a lot
for this purpose at the intersection of today's Ks. Kłopotowskiego and
Jagiellońska streets, which had remained in ruins after the Russian
storming of Praga in 1794. The Jewish Community, comprised primarily of
the families of craftsmen, was not able to engage any of the well-known
In 1840, they commissioned the city's
master-builder, Jóżef G. Lessel, to design the synagogue. He had built
the nearby observation tower for the fire department. A rather small
classical building in the shape of a rotunda was constructed, with four
vestibules, more reminiscent of an ancient Roman grave than a synagogue.
It was nevertheless in keeping with the architectural style at the
In the late nineteenth century, Praga's Jewish Community
expanded its social and religious activities significantly. Next to the
synagogue, several buildings were erected for various purposes,
including the Israelite Orphanage, which came to be called the Michał
Bergson Jewish Educational Center, named after the wealthy merchant and
The building was designed by the well-known
architect Henryk Stifelman, who also designed the hospital at ul.
Krochmalna, where the famous physician and pedagogue Janusz Korczak
worked. Its style was inspired by traditional Polish palaces and
late-Renaissance buildings and granaries, such as those for which
Kazimierz nad Wisłą is famous.
The synagogue was spared, relatively speaking, from the destruction
of the Second World War and the German occupation. It was burned, but
the structure still stood. Unfortunately, the building was demolished as
the result of a rash decision after the war, during the reconstruction
of Warsaw. Only a few photographs of it remain.
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