Jewish Heritage Europe

World Lion Day…. in Jewish images

Lion atop the tomb of Hendl Bassevi (d. 1628) in the Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague


August 10 was World Lion Day….described as “the first global campaign to celebrate the importance of the lion worldwide. Since the dawn of man the lion has played an integral role in our lives: symbolically, religiously, culturally, economically and biologically.”

In honor of World Lion Day, we present a photo gallery of images of lions from synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and other Jewish sources.


Lions supporting the crown of the Torah, over the Ark of the ruined synagogue in Nowy Korczyn, Poland, which has been preserved as a ryuin


As a symbol, the Lion — one of the most frequently mentioned animals in the Bible — plays a powerful role in Jewish tradition, and as such it figures frequently in the decoration of synagogues, Jewish gravestones, papercuts, and other items.

(A decade ago an exhibition at the Folk Art museum in New York, and a book by Murray Zimiles, focused on this. )

We used this lion, from a gravestone in Botosani, Romania, as the inspiration for our JHE logo:

Among other things, the Lion denotes strength, courage, and majesty — besides being the symbol of the ancient Hebrew Tribe of Judah.

The word for Lion in Hebrew and other languages became a popular name, too — Arieh, for example, and variations of Lev, Loeb, Leon….And it also figures as one of the four animals in the admonition from the Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot ): “Be as strong as a leopard, light as an eagle, fleet as a hart, and brave as a lion to perform the will of thy Father who is in heaven.”


The four animals on the ceiling of the disused synagogue in Siret, Romania
“Middle” Jewish cemetery, Siret, Romania
Lions on a Hanukkah menorah, in the museum in Braunschweig, Germany
Busk, Ukraine
Lion emblem on the ceremonial hall of the Jewish cemetery in Breclav, Czech Republic
Gravestones with representation of lions flanking books. Siret, Romania
Grave marker in the old Jewish cemetery in Venice, founded in the 14th century. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber
Zodiac in the synagogue in Chmielnik, Poland
Jewish Cemetery Gura Humorului, Romania
The four animals in the “Tranzit House” synagogue in Cluj, Romania
Kerepesi (Salgotarjani street) Jewish cemetery, Budapest. Tomb designed by Bela Lajta
Staryi Sambir, Ukraine
Detail of replica of ceiling of Gwozdziec synagogue, in POLIN museum, Warsaw: a unicorn fighting a lion
Restored painting of a lion on the synagogue at Dabrowa Tarnowska, Poland. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber


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