Model of the synagogue in Zabłudów (Poland)

Algiers, workshop of the ORT (Organisation Reconstruction Travail) school, 1948-1950

Polished and painted wood, glass, 32 x 52 x 45.5 cm

Musée d’Art juif collection, gift of the ORT

Model of the synagogue in Zabłudów (Poland), Algiers, workshop of the ORT school, 1948-1950

Model of the synagogue in Zabłudów (Poland), Algiers, workshop of the ORT school, 1948-1950

Jews settled in the small town of Zabłudów, near Białystok in Poland (formerly in Lithuania), in the late 15th century. The Jewish community there, renowned for its Talmudic school (yeshivah), prospered and represented 70% of the population in the late 19th century before diminishing sharply due to massive emigration.

This wooden synagogue, one of the most beautiful in the region, was built in 1640, enlarged in 1765 and altered in 1895 and 1923. It was burnt by the Wehrmacht in June 1941, as soon as the Nazis entered the town, and Zabłudów’s remaining Jewish population was murdered between November 1942 and August 1943.

Whereas synagogues in the large towns and cities of Eastern Europe were usually built in stone or brick, those in rural towns (shtetls) were entirely built in wood. They had stepped, pagoda-style roofs and the one-storey pavilions around the main building had galleries inspired by the local architecture. Their interiors were entirely clad with painted panelling. Their Torah ark and almemor – the Ashkenazi name for the Torah lectern – was often particularly monumental. A model was also made of the one the synagogue in Zabłudów.

This is one of fifteen models of Eastern European synagogues made between 1948 and 1952 for the Musée d’Art juif in rue des Saules, the first Jewish museum in Paris, created at the same time by survivors of the Holocaust and the precursor of the mahJ. Based on documentation collected in the early 20th century by Léon Frankiel, one of the museum’s founders, these models were made by carpentry pupils at the ORT (Organisation Reconstruction Travail) school in Algiers. ORT, a philanthropic professional training organisation founded in Saint Petersburg in 1880 to bring Jews out of poverty through apprenticeship of manual trades, established itself in Algeria in 1947 and is still active in France and abroad.

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