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Nożyk Synagogue, Twarda Street 6

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

In 1898 Zalman (Zelman, Załman) Nożyk, son of Menasze and a gallantry merchant, decided to build a synagogue in Twarda Street, although houses of prayer were already numerous in the neighborhood of Grzybowski Square. In Twarda Street alone there were eighteen small, private synagogues. In order to have the project prepared, Nożyk employed a famous Warsaw architect, Karol Kozłowski, author of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra Hall, the building of which had been commisioned by Leopold Julian Kronnenberg, Ludwik Grossman and Aleksander Rajchman, three Jewish financiers. The synagogue was erected in the period of 1989-1902 to serve for the so-called “baali-batim” – middle class owners of houses, shops, workshops and small manufactures; it was they who were entitled to purchase a seat in the synagogue. The poor could only participate in the morning prayers on days when the service was held twice. In 1914, after the death of Ryfka, Zalman’s wife, the synagogue was bequeathed to the Jewish Community of Warsaw on conditions that it would be maintained from the donations of contributors and retain its full name, and that prayers for the founders would be held there on every El Male Rachamim. Until 1939, it was the Nożyk foundation, established by the Jewish Community of Warsaw, who distributed the funds for the synagogue’s maintenance according to the testamentary legacy. In 1923, the building was expanded: a choir loft designed by Maurycy Grodzieński was added.

It is the only Warsaw synagogue situated on the left bank of the Vistula river that survived World War II.

In the period of 1939-1941 the synagogue served as a fodder warehouse and a stable. In 1941 the Nazis allowed to open three synagogues in Warsaw, including the Nożyk synagogue. The official opening was held on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The service was conducted by a senior hazzan, Dawid Ajdensztadt. Majer Bałaban(1877-1942), a historian, Warsaw University and the Institute of Judaism Sciences professor, who headed the Archive Department of Judenrat in the Warsaw ghetto, preached the sermon.

After the war, the synagogue was in use until 1968. It was opened again after political transformations in Poland in 1983. Then, reconstruction works were carried out, and the eastern annex was built. At present, the annex is the seat of the Union of Jewish Communities in the Republic of Poland and of the Jewish Community of Warsaw.

The synagogue was visited by, among others Mosze Kacaw, the Israeli president, and by Ronald S. Lauder, sponsor of numerous initiatives aiming at reviving Jewish cultural and religious life in Poland. Lauder’s foundation, for instance, financed renovation of the synagogue’s façade in 2002. Lastly, in November 2007, Joseph Malowany, one of the most famous performers of Hebrew liturgical music, led the Sabbath prayers there.
Architecture. The synagogue is an oriented, T-shaped building, with the vestibule slightly broader than the main hall. Its construction seems to refer directly to the attempts of reconstructing the Jerusalem Temple, based on an interpretation of the Biblical description” [1.1]. A lot can be said about the synagogue’s architectonic style. Neo-Romanesque elements of Byzantine origin are prevailing in the façade’s decoration as well as in the plan of the interior. Renaissance references are also visible. “Representations of Jewish symbolism are perfectly composed into the synagogue’s façade” (Bergman, E., "Nie masz bóżnicy powszechnej" Synagogues and houses of prayer in Warsaw from the end of 18th century till the beginning of 21st century, Warsaw 2007, p. 313). A Torah scroll, crowned with turrets adorned with marble tablets of the Decalogue, is placed over the portal, at the frieze height. Two columns, referring probably to the columns Jakin and Boaz situated at the gate to the Jerusalem Temple, are placed on both sides of the Decalogue tablets.

Mayer Balaban

BaLaban MaYer

Historian, a prominent researcher of the history of Jews in Poland. He did not continue the family tradition and did not devote himself to printing, but scientific work. He studied under the direction of Louis Finkel and Simon Ashkenazy at Lviv University, where he obtained his doctorate in 1904. During World War I he served as the military rabbi in Lublin. He worked in secondary education for a number of years. 

Between 1920-1930 he was the rector of the Rabbinical Seminar "Tachkemoni" created on the initiative of the Mizrachi in 1920 in Warsaw. The school had a dualistic nature, similarly to other Mizrachi institutions, combining the principles of religious education and Zionist views. It was to perform the function of both yeshiva and a modern academy. Bałaban paide attention to a thorough education of graduates (the university executed the curriculum of a secular humanistic junior high school) which prepared them for their leadership role...

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[1.1] Bergman, E., "Nie masz bóżnicy powszechnej" Synagogues and houses of prayer in Warsaw from the end of 18th century till the beginning of 21st century, Warsaw 2007, p. 312-313

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52.2360° N / 21.0011° E
52°14'09" N / 21°00'04" E
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