Biecz Synagogue

The first Jewish house of prayer, known as the old synagogue, was built in the 1860s on the initiative of rabbi Elimelech Goldberg. The old synagogue served Orthodox Jews; Hasidic Jews called it 'szul' or 'szil'. The hall for men was on the ground floor; the upper floor housed the women's hall and study rooms. Every day, morning, afternoon, and evening prayers were held in the synagogue. In between times of prayer, the synagogue served as a cheder – a school for younger children. After the outbreak of the Second World War, it no longer served a religious function – it was taken over by the Nazis and turned into a military warehouse. After the war, Soviet troops stationed here destroyed the furnishings, using it as firewood. Later, the building housed a school. In 1965–66, a regional museum and the Book and Newspaper Club ‘Ruch’ were located here. Numerous post-war renovations completely concealed the building's original interior layout. There was another synagogue in Biecz, called the Talmud-Torah, the cornerstone for which was laid in 1924. Four years later, the building was completed. It was a synagogue meant specifically for Talmudic studies. In 2002, the building was renovated. The renovation exposed fragments of walls with inscriptions, an image of the temple, and a painted curtain on the eastern wall. One element of the original polychrome of the men's prayer hall was a double black line with Hebrew inscriptions and a repeating motif of the Star of David. Surviving on the western wall is a depiction of Solomon's Temple with high rectangular double defensive walls with columns and two courtyards: one contained an altar for burnt offerings and the other a sacrificial altar. In this wall, there was also a recess for the cabinet called 'Aron ha-Kodesh', in which the Torah was stored. On the southern slope, between the synagogue building and the railway tracks, there was a mikvah, a ritual bath. The original wooden one from 1861 was replaced with one made of brick 20 years later. Its dimensions are 10 x 10 metres. For ritual activities, there was a room with a basin for ablutions and washing sacral vessels tainted with ritual impurities. In accordance with the principles of Judaism, it was used by Orthodox Jews. The mikvah was connected with the synagogue's buildings by a wooden porch. In the first years of the German occupation, the mikvah served as a bathhouse for the Nazi soldiers stationed there because Jews were forbidden to bathe. After the war, the bathhouse was closed and the building was probably demolished in the 1960s. 

In 2021, in the cellar, is a permanent exhibition titled ‘The Jews of Biecz – History and Murder’.

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