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].

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Read more at Jewish Heritage Europe

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

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine