First look inside luminous Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Nadeslala Anna Halberg



warsaw  |  “This was a world in color,” said Jewish studies professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, speaking of the 1,000-year Jewish presence in Poland, “and not the black and white we know from photographs.”

She made her point last week in Warsaw, standing beneath the massive, reconstructed 17th-century wooden synagogue roof that will be a centerpiece of the city’s Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Based on a shul from the town of Gwozdziec, the roof’s hand-hewn timbers contain no nails. Scores of artists used natural pigments mixed with water and glue to paint the kaleidoscopic ceiling as it looked centuries ago, a veritable Jewish Sistine Chapel with wild reds and pale blues accenting the signs of the Zodiac, harmoniously sharing space with images of 67 animals — elephants, ostriches, cheetahs and the Lions of Judah — along with passages from Torah.



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