Krakow Beit Midrash now turned into a Disco



The rundown Chewra Thilim (Psalm Brotherhood) Beit Midrash, or prayer house, where valuable wall paintings representing holy places and animals were discovered in 2008, has been turned into a disco club that opens this weekend. Called “Mezcal”, the club, according to local media, is to feature hard rock music, all-night “cool dance parties with DJs and agressive, even metal concerts.”

The building, at the corner of Meisels and Bozego Ciala streets was designed by Nachman Kopald and built in 1896. Used by a dance ensemble after WW2, it was restituted to the Krakow Jewish community in 2001. Vacant since 2006 and unmaintained, it was rented out by the community as a commercial property.

Alarm over the fate of the building already has been raised for some time — participants in the Managing Jewish Immovable Heritage conference visited it last month after the president of Beit Krakow, the city’s small reform congregation (which had proposed to obtain the site for its own use), informed conference organizers that she believed it would be turned into a restaurant.

She said the delicate frescoes, which were discovered in 2008, are not on Krakow’s list of protected heritage, “which in practice means that there is no obligation for the inner structure of the building … to be appropriately respected in the course of the renovation.”


Fresco of a lion from the Chewra Thilim beit midrash. Photo: Slav/ Wikimedia



The transformation into a disco club flies in the face of best practices (such as those found in the Bratislava Statement), but it is not clear what, if anything, can be done now. What to do with such sites — and how to do it — were key issues at last month’s Managing Jewish Heritage conference.

The newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza on Wednesday ran an article with graphic photos of technicians setting up a sound system and installing a bar in the main room — the frescoes can be clearly seen, but it is not clear whether walls are being built in front of them to protect them.

A translation of the article reads:

On Saturday, May 11th at 8 pm in the district of Kazimierz (two floors of a tenement house at 18 Meiselsa Street) a new club will be opened – Mezcal. Among the artists which will perform will be Agressiva 69 and Sound Q. Furthermore, we will party until early morning with DJ ANthill and DJ Greg Crack. The set of artists is not a coincidence, since the club’s musical program is coordinated by Tomek Grochola from Agressiva 69. – This first evening will show how much varied the music we will play. There will be the electro Sound Q, some harder, rock music by Agressiva 69 and really good DJ’s – he says. – And this is how we want it, both, cool dance parties with DJ’s and agressive, even metal concerts. We don’t want the club to be seen as a techno joint. We also think of exhibitions and movie screenings.

“Just like the Mexican Mezcal is controversial, it penetrates your sight, your smell and taste, we will consequently surprise you and penetrate your senses” – this is how the creators of the club advertise it in an invitation.

The situation drew an outraged comment on the newspaper’s web site.

“It is a scandal that the club will be in such a place. This is a monument! There are wonderful paintings! Who has allowed this? As an art historian, I am crying, and as a man and a Catholic I am appalled that in the club is located in the former synagogue. I would not like a church to be used for such things.”




8 thoughts on “Krakow Beit Midrash now turned into a Disco

  1. The last time i was there, there was a concert of judish music played. A woman playing violin and a man with a guitar singing. Come on people! The paintings on the walls were discovered now and the workers tried the best to save and secure them. Lets finally give ourselves a break and stop scourging ourselves.

  2. The name of the game is money and corruption. Not caring for heritage, art, history, whatever. Little, disgusting people trying to make a buck or two. This relates to BOTH Jews and Poles.

    The whole game with restitution and caring for heritage sites is just that. When Poland started restitution of properties, all sorts of people would come up and claim to be “legal owners” or caretakers of synagogues and other such buildings, only wanting to “save the heritage”. Upon receiving them, they would quickly sell them to be turned into a restaurant or a bank only to have a relative make the same claim again to try to get it “restituted” again, and screaming about ancient heritage being destroyed. So, I guess, as far as things in Poland go, this case isn’t that bad and all, by our “standards” the deal is quite honest and clean.

    The legal situation with all that is a complete mess, and it is not Jews’ fault but rather the fault of the Catholic Church of Poland that is a far bigger player and benefactor of that game. They regularly demand properties for “religious” use, at 1% of the market price (the deal that they negotiated for themselves) only to sell the property at the market value, rent it, or use it for something completely unrelated to any religious practices.

    Similarly, the so called preservation of historical monuments is a complete joke. In Krakow, a 1000+ year old town, hundreds-years-old buildings in the historical downtown are demolished in order to build a modern bank building or a hotel, but at the same time a 1960’s era run-down hotel is being “preserved” by the same “city monuments custodian” as a critically important historical monument and the owner cannot do anything with it, but sell it to connected people at fraction of the cost. As the saying in Poland goes, if you don’t know what it is about – it’s about money. You grease the bureaucrat enough, you can get away with murder. You don’t and he will find a way to make your life miserable.

    Therefore, again, even demolishing this 100+ years old building would be nothing unusual in this place.

  3. Pingback: Media on the Krakow Beit Midrash situation | Jewish Heritage Europe

  4. The building is owned and administered by the Jewish Community of Krakow ( Personally I think it’s a shame they don’t have more imagination, because there are numerous grassroots initiatives and startups in Krakow that are crying out for space to meet and work in, and there are enough bars and clubs in this district that make residents lives a misery. But what can you do? The Jewish Community of Krakow are a recognized religious group in Poland, they answer to no one and they have the right to do what they want with their property.

  5. I am Jewish and lived in Krakow till 1940 when my father and I left for Tangiers to escape
    the Nazis. What is happening is a painful sacrilege, an insult and desecration of sacred memories, an immense chilul H’ . Given that there are individuals, be they even Jewish, who would stoop down to this level for money, how can the leadership of the community allow this to happen?

    How can Israel and major Jewish organizations stand idly by?

    Shame, Shanda!

  6. As I’ve heard elsewhere, it is in fact the local Jewish Community that rented the building to the disco owners, probably due to the lack of money to renovate it themselves.

  7. Почему ответственен евреи диаспоры а не Польская республика, которая получила коло сальное имущества евреев: дома, предприятии, заводы,культурные сооружении, спортивные и другие объекты и еще большие жудожественные ценности, мебель, картины, золотые и серебренные ценности, книги и многое другого. И еще вклады в банках евреев, ценные бумаги…
    Польское еврейство, которые проживала в стране уничтожена и изгнана! Долг поляков, а не евреев сохранять остатки синагог, кладбищ и др.
    Евреям есть, что сохранять и восстанавливать!.

  8. Michael Traison has asked us to post this comment:

    “If jewish heritage sites which represent a remnant of the jewish world of pre war poland are abused, the responsibility for that rests with the jewish diaspora who abandons these sites and stands aside while the things are occurring. Even greater is the duty of those Jews who were brought up in israel and in communities where transparency and fiduciary duty are not new concepts. Would the Jews of countries which were not ruled under totalitarian systems permit this to happen in their own cities? Hardly! Why do we standby idly?”

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