The Polish Gentile Who Devoted Her Life to Preserving Abandoned Synagogues

Besides engaging in mass murder of Jews themselves, the Nazis often deliberately destroyed Jewish houses of worship and cemeteries. Numerous synagogues were also laid waste by the sheer devastation of World War II, and those that remained were neglected in a land with few Jews, ruled by a government that repressed Judaism. Despite all this, Maria and Maciej Piechotka spent much of their lives preserving and documenting Jewish religious architecture in their country. Maciej died in 2010 at the age of ninety, while his wife Maria died last month, just a few weeks after reaching the age of one hundred. Jewish Heritage Europe reports:

The Piechotkas were active in the World War II Polish resistance movement and took part in the 1944 Warsaw uprising [against the Nazis]. At the war’s end they began their efforts to record the architectural detail of destroyed buildings, with a special focus on wooden synagogues. The couple co-authored several books on the subject, including Wooden Synagogues, published in 1957 (with an English edition two years later), which has become the seminal work in the field.

One of the most important research resources on the history and heritage of Polish Jews, the book was updated and reprinted in the 1990s, and a new, expanded edition—in English and Polish—was published in 2016.

Maria was active well into her nineties. Among other things, she worked closely . . . on the creation of the replica of the elaborately painted ceiling of the cupola of the destroyed wooden synagogue in what was Gwozdziec, Poland. The replica is now the centerpiece installation of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews [in Warsaw].

Read more at Jewish Heritage Europe

More about: Jewish architecture, Polish Jewry, Righteous Among the Nations, Synagogues, World W II


Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem