Pub. Date:
Brandeis University Press
Resplendent Synagogue: Architecture and Worship in an Eighteenth-Century Polish Community / Edition 1

Resplendent Synagogue: Architecture and Worship in an Eighteenth-Century Polish Community / Edition 1

by Thomas C. Hubka


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Thomas C. Hubka, an architectural historian known for his work on American vernacular architecture, immersed himself in medieval and early-modern Jewish history, religion, and culture to prepare for this remarkable study of the eighteenth-century Polish synagogue in the town of Gwozdziec, now in present Ukraine. Hubka selected the Gwozdziec Synagogue—one of the finest examples of a small-town wooden synagogue from the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—because of the completeness of its photographic and historical records. This truly resplendent synagogue exemplified a high point in Jewish architectural art and religious painting, a tradition that was later abandoned by Eastern-European Jewish communities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Because the Gwozdziec Synagogue, like so many others, was destroyed by the Nazis, this book revives a spiritual community lost to history. Graced with nearly 200 historical photographs, architectural drawings, maps, diagrams, and color illustrations, Resplendent Synagogue vividly recreates the spiritual heart of a once-vibrant Jewish community. Hubka “reads” the synagogue both as a historical document and as a cultural artifact. His interpretation of its art and architecture—and its liturgy—enables him to recreate a pre-modern Jewish community seen in relation to both its internal traditions of worship and its external relations with Gentile neighbors. Hubka demonstrates that while the architectural exterior of the synagogue was largely the product of non-Jewish, regional influences, the interior design and elaborate wall-paintings signified a distinctly Jewish art form. The collaboration of Jewish and Gentile builders, craftsmen, and artists in the creation of this magnificent wooden structure attests to an eighteenth century period of relative prosperity and community well-being for the Jews of Gwozdziec. This unique exploration of a lost religious and cultural artifact breathes new life into a forgotten but fascinating aspect of eighteenth-century Polish Jewry and is certain to incite discussion and debate among modern readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781584652168
Publisher: Brandeis University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2003
Series: Tauber Institute Series for the Study of European Jewry Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

CAROL K. INGALL is the Dr. Bernard Heller Professor of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Table of Contents

Two Grandfathersxix
1Synagogue and Community1
2Conceptions and Misconceptions13
5Historical Context123
6Design of the Synagogue139
7The Meaning of the Remodeled Cupola151

What People are Saying About This

Michael Steinlauf

“Thomas Hubka has found an extraordinary new gateway back into a lost Jewish past. Through the meticulous analysis of a single wooden synagogue, he opens before us the nearly undocumented pre-Hasidic popular culture of Eastern European Jews.”

Marc M. Epstein

“Hubka’s book exhibits a fine blend of scholarship, accessibility, and panache. In fact, Hubka’s is the only book in the field of Jewish architecture that attempts to contextualize a building with such specificity and with such a broad sense of the way it belongs in its immediate and more extensive cultural surroundings. It is unique in using architecture to fill in details of the relatively undiscovered country of pre-Hasidic Eastern Europe. The extrapolations it invites are essential to understanding the period and place, making Hubka’s thesis a force to be reckoned with.”

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