Reconstructing a 17th-Century Wooden Synagogue

The husband-and-wife team of Rick and Laura Brown has reconstructed the synagogue of the Polish town of Gwoździec. In an interview, Rick Brown discusses the project itself and the building’s elaborate architecture, ornate wooden carvings, and paintings. In a visual idiom lost and nearly forgotten today, the artwork borrowed symbols and motifs from local Christians but blended them with uniquely Jewish features like the “centralized architectural element” of a high cupola:

Now, we believe Gwoździec was where they came up with this new idea of creating a very elaborate, multi-tiered wooden panel ceiling—we call it a cupola, and it moves upward and inward toward the top. . . . This is where the synagogue was creating its own architectural identity separate from the Christian churches. See, the Christian churches were based on the basilica: a long, straight nave, this processional. You come up the staircase, you go through the doors, you go down the aisle, and you come to the altar at the end. In this synagogue, in Gwoździec, the bimah was in the center; this is where the Torah scrolls were brought during a service, this is where the rabbi would speak, and the congregation would move around the bimah in a kind of circular fashion.

Read more at YIVO

More about: Jewish architecture, Jewish art, Poland, Shtetl, Synagogue

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security