Jewish Heritage Europe

Poland: art reveals Tykocin synagogue before restoration

Detail of drawing from 1968 by Michael Lonstar of ravaged interior of Tykocin synagogue, including Ark

A 50-year-old drawing  reveals the ravaged interior of the 17th century synagogue in Tykocin, Poland — nearly a decade before it was renovated and reopened as one of the very few Jewish museums that operated in Communist-ruled east-central Europe.

Ark in Tykocin Synagogue,  after renovation, 1990.

The drawing was made by Michael Łuszczyński Lonstar, a multi-talented Polish singer-songwriter, when he was a student and visited the synagogue in 1968.

His drawing focuses on the Ark — showing the empty niche and the elaborate carving above it that survived the damage sustained during and after World War II. The drawing also shows the vaulted ceiling and part of the massive, four-pillar bimah that is a key feature of the synagogue’s architecture.

A monumental masonry building with a high mansard roof, the synagogue, desecrated during World War II, was used as a fertilizer warehouse after the war. It was rebuilt and restored in the 1970s and opened on Nov. 1, 1976 as a branch of the Podlaskie District Museum in Bialystok.

Photo from around 1975 showing the interior of the Great Synagogue in Tykocin. (Center for Jewish Art)

We have seen very few other representations of the synagogue before its restoration. One is in the ditigized index of the Center for Jewish Art in Jerusalem.

Lonstar’s drawing was kept in his personal archives for decades, until he brought it to show to JHE Coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber this week — when they attended the opening of ReGeneration, a photographic exhibition by Chuck Fishman on Jewish life in Poland, held at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

Fishman’s photos include images he took in the 1970s of the elderly post-Holocaust remnant community, as well as images he began taking in 2013 of today’s revived Jewish community in Poland.

Tykocin synagogue interior. Photo Anna Sierko/Virtual Shtetl
Tykocin synagogue, originally built in 1642.
Michael Lonstar displays his drawing from 1968 of ravaged synagogue in Tykocin, Poland



3 comments on “Poland: art reveals Tykocin synagogue before restoration

  1. What is the address and when is it open?
    My great grandparents Moshe silewski and Helena mallach came from tykociin and moved to bialystok where my grandmother was born.

  2. What a coup! This post should be more widely distributed; this may encourage other amateur recorders to come forward with their recordings.

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