Inauguration Ceremony at Zamo?? Synagogue

Edward Mohylowski is WMF's Vice President for Development. He attended the inauguration ceremony at Zamo?? Synagogue and filed this field dispatch.

The Renaissance Synagogue in Zamo?? is a very interesting monument to Jewish cultural heritage as well as Polish architectural history. The town of Zamo?? was created and laid out on a Renaissance plan as an “ideal city” designed by the Italian architect Bernardo Morando. It was founded in the late sixteenth century by Jan Zamoyski, the Hetman and Grand Chancellor of the Crown, whose family owned vast estates in what is now southeastern Poland, on the trade route linking western and northern Europe with the Black Sea. The city was envisioned as a center of trade, and, in addition to Poles, Zamoyski invited Armenians, Jews, Ukrainians, Scots, Greeks, Italians, and others to settle here and develop Zamo??'s potential. The Jewish community, then comprising Sephardim from Lvov and later Turkey and Italy, built a handsome synagogue that survived the Holocaust. Prior to World War II, Zamo?? had a thriving Jewish community. Subsequent to the war, the building was used as a warehouse and then as the municipal library.

The synagogue was restituted to the Jewish community in 2005, when ownership was transferred to the Fundacja Ochrony Dziedzictwa ?ydowskiego (FODZ) or Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage, based in Warsaw, which found a new use for the synagogue and instituted a restoration program. World Monuments Fund was an early supporter of FODZ's efforts to restore the synagogue and made a grant of $75,000 toward stabilization work to the building's foundations. This grant helped to leverage other funding, especially a major grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through the EEA Financial Mechanism and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism, which provided the funds necessary to undertake the restoration work. That work was completed, and the restored synagogue was dedicated on April 5, 2011. As there is no Jewish population in Zamo?? now, the synagogue will not serve as a house of prayer. Rather, it will serve the needs of Jewish visitors to Zamo?? as well as its inhabitants. The building also houses the Chassidic Route tourist and cultural information center, as well as a multimedia museum of the history of the Jews of Zamo?? and the surrounding area.

The festivities were very well attended, attracting guests from as far away as Buenos Aires, Argentina. Monika Krawczyk, President of FODZ, welcomed the group assembled and proceeded to introduce a list of very distinguished guests. Among them were Lee Feinstein, the U.S. Ambassador to Poland; as well as the ambassadors from Israel and Germany. In addition, a number of dignitaries from Israel, representatives of Jewish organizations and the head of the Norway Grant Program also attended and spoke. The current mayor of Zamo??, Marcin Zamoyski (a descendent of the founder of the town) welcomed the guests, and the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, spoke briefly before affixing a mezuzah to entrance of the building. After the speeches, there was a lovely one-hour concert of early Sephardic music, after which all the guests adjourned to the Orbis Zamoyski Hotel nearby for a kosher lunch.

After the lunch, many of the guests returned to the synagogue for the opening of a three-day international conference on the “History of the Jews in Zamo?? and the Zamo?? region.”