A Wooden Synagogue is Rising from the Ashes

In the course of World War II, an entire class of architecture was obliterated: the elaborate and sophisticated wooden synagogues of Poland. Not a single example of these remarkable structures survived the torches.

Now one of these synagogues is rising from the ashes. An international team of students and professionals will rebuild the cascading roof, pyramidal cupola and spectacular painted ceiling of the 18th century Gwoździec Synagogue, and will install the roof as the centerpiece exhibition of the newly completed Museum of the History of Polish Jews, on the site of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

Gwoździec, a truly resplendent wooden synagogue built in the Polish Lithuanian Empire in 1731, exemplified a high point in Jewish architectural art and religious painting.

Become part of this incredible project by helping to fund a documentary—vital to preserving the story of this historic reconstruction. Donations can be made on Kickstarter.

Emmy award winning filmmaker, John Rubin, will use the funds to make a documentary film that follows the extraordinary detectives who are trying to recover the knowledge of how to build wooden synagogues. How can 80 year old, two-dimensional photographs be translated into three-dimensional joints, beams, roofs, and panels? How can the vivid colors of mythical animal and floral interior painting be recreated from black-and-white images?

Students from the US, Israel and Poland will work shoulder to shoulder with master craftspeople. The stories of their conflicts, frustrations, and triumphs will be part of the film. Several members will become key characters of the film, joining Rick and Laura Brown, the masterminds of the project. Founders of Handshouse Studio, the Browns are both faculty in the sculpture department at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Within the dramatic arc will be scenes of the international team of workers struggling to master strange, ancient tools and overcome the challenges posed by finicky, raw materials. Adding to the pressure will be the looming completion deadline and the workers’ exacting standards of artistic excellence and historical accuracy.

Never far from anyone’s mind is the question about who actually created these architectural wonders 300 years ago. And then, who destroyed them. As team members seek out residents with living memory of the events of World War II, the film will provide the context of Poland’s past as home to the largest population of Jews before World War II and then as the center of Nazi death camps.

The final stage of the project will be re-assembling the roof and ceiling panels inside Warsaw’s forthcoming Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The Museum is currently under construction on the hallowed ground of Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto. Its opening in 2013 will be a major international cultural event. When the Museum’s doors open, the world will experience for the first time in 70 years the full splendor of this lost architecture.

The film is a co-production of John Rubin Productions, Inc. and Trillium Studios. Handshouse Studio, a 501c3 organization, is raising funds to finance the documentary production through Kickstarter, the world’s largest crowd-funding platform. Contributions are tax-deductible. Every Kickstarter project must be fully funded before its time expires or no money changes hands.

If you would like to participate in the replication of Gwoździec this summer, please contact Laura@Handshouse.org before May 1st, 2011.

Thanks for your support!

Guest post by Rick Brown. Ric is a co-founder of Handshouse Studio, a not-for-profit, innovative educational organization, that initiates adventurous, hands-on projects as a way to explore history, understand science and perpetuate the arts.

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1 Comment

  1. anna sosnovitch

    9/29/2012 at 2:24 pm

    Yad va Shem didn’t get the correct information about my family who lived in
    Gwozdziec before the second world war .
    Family Mandler lived in Gwozdziec till they were killed by the nazis
    my mother’s father Meir Mandler
    my mother’s mother Hanna Mandler
    Their 6 children: Israel , Rivka, David, Rosa (my mother the only survivor)
    Fishel’ Ester.
    Gwozdziec is not far from Kolomyia . Ukrain

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