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Great Synagogue

Heritage Sites – Synagogues, prayer houses and others
Polska / podlaskie


Translator name :Magdalena Mech

The synagogue was located in Bożnicza Street, today's Suraska Street. It was built between 1909 and 1913 in the place of the so-called "Old Synagogue" which was constructed in 1764 and modelled on the Synagogue of Tykocin [1.1].

In the interwar period, it was the most impressive synagogue in Białystok. Built in the eclectic style, according to the design of Samuel J. Rabinowicz , it combined the neo-Gothic (windows) and neo-Byzantine (domes) elements. The building had a magnificent dome with a diameter of 10 meters which was topped with a spire, and smaller domes installed on corner annexes. It was surrounded with numerous small guild and private synagogues.

The Great Synagogue was a reform temple. However, even though women had the same rights to pray as men, they had to use separate galleries surrounding the inside of the building. In the interwar period, the Hebrew Junior High School's orchestra performed there during holidays and public ceremonies. The synagogue was the most prestigious in Białystok. As reported by "Reflektor" in 1934, due to the approaching Jewish holidays, as many as fourteen cantors had applied to the Board of the Great Synagogue offering their candidacy to conduct the solemn services. Furthermore, the synagogue posed a temptation for... thieves as well. For example, in 1934, a few robbers broke into the building and stole 60 light bulbs. At that time, the price of one light bulb was around 2 zlotys, which was equal to a daily wage of a labourer. [1.2]

On 27 June 1941, the Nazis gathered Jewish men and boys inside the building and, then, burnt the synagogue down with the Jewish people inside. Around 2,500 people died. 

Today, at the site where the synagogue once stood there is a monument in the shape of the dome of the destroyed building. Its designers are Michał Flikier (idea and supervision) and Maria Dżugała-Sobocińska, Dariusz Sobociński, Stanisław Ostaszewski (project and realisation). The monument was unveiled in 1995.

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[1.1] Zgasł płomień świecy, „Kurier Poranny” 1993, No. 85

[1.2] T. Wiśniewski, Kartki z Atlantydy - Ojciec i syn, "Fołk Sztyme" 1989, No. 25

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53.1316° N / 23.1570° E
53°07'53" N / 23°09'25" E
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